More than 50% of the new palm oil plantations in Indonesia are planned on peatlands. With these criteria, many Indonesian and Malaysian producers will lose the markets of the 4th largest palm oil importer. Wetlands International calls for the EU, individual countries to take action to stop the rapid expansion of palm oil from peatlands and the adverse environmental targets and subsidies promoting this expansion.
The report’s criteria are the proposed guideline for enabling legislation on bio-fuels by the Dutch government, such as targets and subsidies. These Dutch criteria could have a great impact. The rapidly growing demand for palm oil as a bio-fuel is largely the result of supportive legislation in various countries. Now the Dutch governmental committee recognises that palm oil production on peat leads to excessive CO2 release, subsidies and targets will likely halt and pressure will grow to make palm oil production more sustainable. The EU is working on a new bio-fuel Directive, including criteria for sustainability. The decision from the Netherlands as the first EU-member to present its criteria are therefore encouraging. The UK is currently working on bio-fuel certification systems.
Wetlands International together with Delft Hydraulics presented in December 2006 a report showing the enormous carbon emissions from drained tropical peatlands (www.wetlands.org/peat-CO2). Emissions are especially large from tropical peatsoils under palm oil plantations due to drainage and associated peatland fires, namely up to 100 tonnes CO2 a hectare year. This makes palm oil from peat up to 10 times higher than emissions from fossil fuels.
In addition to acknowledgement of large carbon dioxide emissions from degraded peatlands, the Commission Cramer also recognises the loss of biodiversity caused by unsustainable biofuel production. Peatlands are home to a large variety of plant species and are of high importance for future survival of a number of rare and threatened animal species, amongst which the Sumatran Tiger, the Orang Utan, the Storm’s Stork, the Sumatran Rhinoceros, the Tapir and the Malaysian Sunbear.
Wetlands International supports the use of bio-fuels as an alternative to fossil fuels, as long as it can be proved that these bio-fuels are truly sustainable. Although the NGO is relieved that palm oil from peatlands is no longer supported in the Netherlands, Wetlands International supports other NGO’s in their criticisms of some other elements of the report. An example is the inclusion of a reference date of 1 January 2007 for biomass production in areas with formerly a rich biodiversity or in which carbon losses cannot be earned back within ten years. This runs counter to the Forest Stewardship Certification (FSC) date of 1996 which was set to recognize the past ten years of rainforest destruction. Another big weakness in the criteria concerns the poverty element. Support to bio-fuel production displaces food production in some areas and leads to higher food prices. There are no criteria presented to ban bio-fuels that do compete with food production in developing countries.
More information on our activities on palm oil and to protect Indonesian peatlands:
For more information please contact:
Communication Manager Wetlands International
tel: +31 65060 1917
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Communications and Advocacy Department
Tel. +31 (0)318 660933
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Tel. +31 (0) 318 660 910
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