World's Five Biggest Palm Oil Growers Agree To Moratorium in High Carbon Areas

The five biggest palm oil growers in the world agreed to not develop palm oil in high carbon stock areas while the High Carbon Stock Study is being conducted. The five growers are Asian Agri, IOI Corporation Berhad, Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad, Musim Mas Group and Sime Darby Plantation. They are funding the study with agribusiness groups Cargill and Wilmar International, and the consumer goods company Unilever. The 12-month long HCS Study will give information on greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental issues. The study will look at four key areas: above ground biomass, soil carbon, remote sensing and socio-economics. A steering committee is overseeing the study.
The five growers, who are already members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), have launched and signed the Sustainable Palm Oil Manifesto which commits signatories to sustainable palm oil production. The Manifesto demands no deforestation and the protection of peat area. It has three objectives:
  • To build traceable and transparent supply chains
  • To speed up the time when there is no deforestation through conserving high carbon stock forests and protecting peat areas
  • To increase the focus on driving beneficial economic change and to ensure a positive social impact on people and communities

Indonesia is the world’s leading supplier of palm oil. The palm oil sector in that country is responsible for much deforestation. Indonesia is the third largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions, behind China and the U.S. From 2000 to 2009, the Indonesian palm oil industry expanded to become the world leader in 2006. The country’s palm oil exports increased by almost 11 million tons during that time period or about 27 percent a year. That expansion came at the expense of about 340,000 hectares of Indonesia’s tropical lowland forests.

Over a third of large-scale palm oil expansion from 1990 to 2010 caused a loss of about 3.5 million hectares of tropical forests in Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea. Those tropical forests are home to many endangered animals, including orangutans, elephants and tigers. Cutting forests down releases carbon emissions into the atmosphere which contributes to climate change. Deforestation also strips some indigenous people of both their land and livelihoods. The smoke from burning forests affects people’s health.
At the recent one day UN Climate Summit in New York, some companies made commitments to sourcing sustainable palm oil. Over 20 global food companies pledged to source palm oil from companies committed to deforestation-free sourcing policies. Three of the companies are the world's largest palm oil companies (Wilmar, Golden Agri-Resources and Cargill) committed to work together to implement their commitments. They joined the Indonesian Business Council in asking incoming Indonesian President Joko Widodo to support their efforts through legislation and policies. 
During the past year a number of companies have pledged to source sustainably produced palm oil, most recently Dunkin Donuts and Krispy Kreme. Taken together, the share of palm oil production under zero deforestation commitments has grown to about 60 percent in the last year, with the potential to reduce 400 million to 450 million tons of carbon emissions a year by 2020. 
Photo: autan