Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)
Wetlands International has been a critical member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) since 2007. RSPO is an association of companies involved in the production, marketing and use of palm oil, and non-governmental organisations involved in conservation and sustainable development. The aim of RSPO is to promote the growth and use of sustainable palm oil.
Parts of the palm oil sector are associated with deforestation, poor labour conditions, violations of land rights and water pollution. A major issue is the conversion and drainage of peat swamp forests. Drainage of the carbon-dense peat soils leads to emissions in the range of 48 – 84 tonnes of carbon dioxide per hectare each year. For Southeast Asia, roughly 3.5 to 4 million hectares (including concessions not yet planted) of oil palm are grown on peat. As a result, the sector is causing carbon dioxide emissions of close to 550 million tonnes carbon dioxide a year due to the destruction of peat.
RSPO created a set of principles for sustainability. However, some issues related to cultivation on peat are not sufficiently addressed. Our major objections are that:
- Carbon emissions due to the drainage of peat swamps are not addressed.
- Loss of peat swamp forests are insufficiently addressed.
- Land subsidence and the creation of wastelands is not addressed.
Until the RSPO addresses these issues, certified sustainable palm oil cannot exist.
Our immediate aims are to include criteria on greenhouse gas emissions, stop expansion of the sector on peatlands and reduce the impacts of existing plantations on peat. In the long term, our aim is to exclude all palm oil production on peatlands.
What we do
As a member of RSPO, we have submitted several proposals to create stronger criteria for the sector; most of these have been blocked, mainly by the plantation owners. However, in 2009 a resolution we sponsored was passed to develop criteria for existing plantations on peat. Since then, we have worked to make the sector recognise the issues and agree on criteria to address them.
In the meantime, we regularly draw attention to the unsustainable nature of current palm oil production on peat: in the media, among authorities and at global conventions. An example of our work includes our report on the expansion of palm oil in the peatlands of Sarawak, Malaysia
. In Europe, we continue to highlight the weakness of palm oil as a sustainable alternative for conventional fuels. View our letter
with in-depth analysis
to the European Commission analysing RSPO's application for sustainability certification.
What we achieved
- Our ongoing media outreach put pressure on industry members to address wetland/peatland conversion.
- Creation of the Peatland Working Group (PLWG) is a direct result of our resolution.
- The PLWG drafted Best Management Practice guidelines for existing plantations on peat.
- The PLWG drafted a scientific review for the sector’s impacts on peatlands, including a scientific review led by Wetlands International on greenhouse gas emissions related to peatland drainage.