Disappointing development criteria
Last year, the RSPO established a greenhouse gas working group to develop proposals for GHG criteria, to be decided at this annual meeting. The working group was called to address the alarming emissions of of forest and peat swamp areas' conversion into oil palm plantations. The continuous emissions caused by drainage of carbon rich tropical peatsoils in Indonesia and Malaysia are of enormous.
The attempts of the working group (including specialists of Wetlands International) to develop appropriate criteria have been frustrated by RSPO members representing Indonesian and Malaysian palm oil growers.
A way forward
The Executive Board of the RSPO has decided as a way forward out of the resulting stalemate on a voluntary mechanism whereby companies may reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2013.
Wetlands International is very concerned about the creation of a voluntary mechanism within the RSPO as this will result in different standards within one brand. Moreover, the timing of 2013 will leave the current and increasingly rapid expansion of palm oil in peatswamp forests areas unabated for another 3 years.
The small good news from the meeting is the adoption of a resolution put forward by Wetlands International to establish a committee for development of options for addressing the problem of existing plantations on peat. This at least acknowledges that there is a significant issue with plantations on peat. The success of this resolution will of course depend on the willingness of the palm oil sector to develop and adopt solutions.
In addition, the current greenhouse gas working group has received an enhanced mandate to continue their effort on development of criteria on emission reductions.
Commitment to halt expansion
In this regard, the commitment made by the “Rest of the World Producers” (non- Malaysian and Indonesian) to immediately halt expansion of oil palm plantations on peat is encouraging.
Last but not least, some of the RSPO members representing palm oil growers proposed some shocking resolutions; stating for instance that there should be no sector-wide criteria on greenhouse gas emissions. The majority of members have rejected these.
2010: a crucial year
Despite these elements of hope, the continued lack of appropriate GHG criteria puts the credibility of current RSPO certified sustainable palm oil in doubt. The expansion of oil palm in carbon rich areas continues unabated and at an increasing rate. The inability of the RSPO to reach agreement of GHG criteria represents a major lost opportunity.
The coming year will be crucial for the RSPO. If the RSPO will again fail to establish criteria in relation to peatlands and greenhouse gas emissions, the credibility and hence the future of the RSPO will be at stake.
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