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RSPO certified palm oil ignores greenhouse gas emissions


This Tuesday (11th Nov.), the world’s first certified palm oil under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) arrives on European shores. This certified palm oil originates from a plantation which has palm oil grown on peatlands. Wetlands International strongly cautions that palm oil cannot be certified "sustainable" as long as the sector refuses to include a criterion on greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from land use change, in particular degradation of tropical peatlands.

Palm oil on peatlands: a climate problem

Peatlands constitute one of the world’s greatest and most efficient carbon stores; containing more carbon than any other ecosystems combined. The continuous degradation and drainage of tropical peatlands for palm oil plantations leads to a rapid decomposition of the organic carbon of peat, and contributes an equivalent of 8% of current global fossil fuel emissions. Palm oil development on peat is one of the main drivers of tropical peat swamp forest destruction and drainage.

By conservative estimate, about 15% of all Malaysian and up to 25% of Indonesian palm oil plantations are now on peatlands. In Indonesia this results in 150 million tonnes CO2 emissions annually and approximately 33 million tonnes emissions in Malaysia. Over 50% of new plantations in Indonesia are planned on peatlands despite a Presidential decree in place banning such practices.   

RSPO: sustainable palm oil?

Wetlands International is member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil; just like some other NGO's and the major producers and consumers like Shell and Unilever. At the fifth Round Table meeting (RT5) in Nov 2007, members of the RSPO voted to establish a Committee to develop additional criteria on maximum Green House Gas emissions connected to palm oil production. Wetlands International is very disappointed that a year later, such a committee is still not in place.

At the upcoming Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RT6) to be held on 18-20 November 2008 in Bali, Indonesia, Wetlands International has submitted a Resolution calling for a moratorium on palm oil development on tropical peatlands until a GHG Committee has been established and developed clear GHG criteria.

Peatswamps constitute one of the world’s greatest carbon stores; containing a soil of up to 12 meters of organic carbon. The drainage of these peatlands to enable the oil palms to grow, leads to a rapid decomposition of the organic carbon of the peat. Every year, 10% of the drained soil turns into carbon dioxide, causing carbon dioxide emissions of up to 100 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year a hectare. Peatswamps are the last remaining areas in Indonesia and Malaysia that are still relatively uninhabited. For this reason, the areas are attractive to establish huge plantations at once. Click here for more info about palm oil and peatlands.

For more information:

Dutch press release on this news

Wetlands International hq (Netherlands)
Alex Kaat
+31 (0)6 5060 1917 (mobile)

Wetlands International Malaysia
Gabriel Chong
+603 7804 6770

Press contact

Communications and Advocacy Department