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IS PALM OIL SUSTAINABLE?

deforestation

A palm oil plantation built in a cleared rainforest in Papua province, Indonesia. Palm oil has a high emissions footprint compared to other oil crops, as plantations tend to destroy tropical forests that contain a lot of carbon. (Image © Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace)

Palm oil plantation owners, the governments in key producing countries, the RSPO, the palm oil boards of Malaysia and Indonesia and the palm oil mills will have you believe that “palm oil is simply the superior crop for its effective land utilization”.  They argue that oil palm “produces far more oil on far less land than other major global oil seed crops” and that “if we shift to other food oils, we would need far more land, resulting in potentially more deforestation and biodiversity loss" but ..................................

PRODUCTIVITY ISN’T THE SAME AS SUSTAINABILITY.

 

To state that palm oil’s productivity will cause less deforestation than another oil crop assumes that all land has equal ecological potential but it doesn’t. “The idea that just because you get a better yield with palm oil in Indonesia than with sunflowers in Belarus or Ukraine, that palm oil is somehow automatically sustainable is trivial nonsense.” Says said Chris Malins an expert in biofuels policy who runs the consultancy Cerulogy.  “Southeast Asia, which is responsible for more than 90% of global palm oil production, is a biodiversity hotspot, and both Indonesia and Malaysia host carbon-rich peatlands. Palm oil has been connected to deforestation and peatland loss, which destroys the habitat of endangered species like the Sumatran rhino, the orangutan and 1,000’s of other species of wildlife & Insects”.  Malins believes the productivity argument not only ignores the type of landscapes in which different oil crops are grown, but also the life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions from oil palm.

biodiversity map

Just a little on peat swamps............

The following was written by freelance Journalist Fred Pearce, “The preservation and restoration of peat swamps in particular could be one of the world’s easiest and cheapest ways to fight global warming. Peat swamps are waterlogged places made of dead plants that cannot decompose because the fetid swamp waters contain no oxygen. Over thousands of years, the organic remnants accumulate in dense layers of peat that will eventually turn into coal.

These waterlogged peatlands cover an area of the planet roughly the size of India, from the frozen tundra of Siberia to the floor of rainforests in the Amazon, Congo and Borneo. They are the planet’s biggest natural stores of carbon. A hectare of intact peatland can contain 1300 tonnes of carbon, more than ten times as much as the same area of forest.

Tropical-peatland-swamp-in-Sumatra-Southeast-Asia

But the world’s peatlands are under growing threat, either deliberately drained to provide land for profitable industrial crops such as palm oil, or accidentally consumed by forest fires. So far an estimated 500,000 square kilometres have been lost.

Once drained, the dried-out plant matter oxidizes. Carbon in the ground turns to carbon dioxide in the air. Drained peatlands now make up an estimated 5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions from human activity.

Adding the carbon from the world’s peat swamps could add to the atmosphere the equivalent of 200 years of US greenhouse gas emissions, and raise global temperatures by more than one degree Celsius. All of that could be halted, say ecologists if peatlands were by rehabilitated by blocking up drains and reflooding them

The world’s most important and threatened peatland hotspot remains Indonesia. The islands of Borneo and Sumatra contain peat layers up to 15 metres deep. As the islands’ forests are being cut down, large areas of peatlands beneath them are being drained for palm oil and forestry. As a result, annual emissions from Indonesian peat oxidation are currently roughly the same as those from fossil-fuel burning in Canada.

The 2017 Global Land Outlook, published by UN Convention to Combat Desertification, estimated that globally some 2 billion tonnes of CO2 is entering the atmosphere annually from degraded peatlands, most of it in the tropics. That is twice as much as the emissions from global aviation. But this hemorrhaging of the world’s largest natural carbon store could be ended swiftly and cheaply.  “Climate mitigation policies for cropland should prioritize elimination of peatland drainage” the report said.”

peatbog graphic palm oil free
peat swamps palm oil free

Peatbog Graphics by Pewstrust.org

“The problem for palm oil is that its carbon footprint for every hectare of land that is converted is really, really bad compared to the expansion footprint of other oils,” said Stephanie Searle, the Fuels Program Director at the non-profit International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). “Palm oil, much more than other oil crops, tends to expand in tropical forests with high carbon stocks.” “The greenhouse gas implications of palm oil use, in all the modelling, are shown to be much higher than rapeseed, soy or sunflower,” said Malins.

 

So if we take all of those points into consideration is palm oil really

the cheapest oil per hectare around? We think not.

We developed this International Palm Oil Free Certification Trademark for companies who, like us, see through the BS of a global billion dollar industry which has and continues to damage rainforests and all they contain. Companies can choose to produce products which don’t need palm oil or palm oil derivatives. If that is your company please go to our How to Apply page so we can send you some information about this certification trademark.

If you wish to read the whole article that some of these quotes have been taken from you can find it here   https://dialogue.earth/en/food/palm-oils-high-yield-masks-environmental-impact/

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