Eastern In­done­sia’s pro­tected forests are among the lat­est to be tar­geted to sat­isfy a global ob­ses­sion with palm oil.

Action Asia - - CONTENTS -

Now the forests of Pa­pua are be­ing felled to feed the world’s de­pen­dency on palm oil.

AS THE MOST IN-DE­MAND VEG­ETABLE oil, palm oil drives de­for­esta­tion around the world. Glob­ally, plan­ta­tions to­tal more than 27 mil­lion hectares, an area the size of New Zealand. For years, In­done­sia has been the largest ex­porter, an di tis now turn­ing its at­ten­tion to the prov­ince of Pa­pua, home to about a third of In­done­sia’s in­tact forests. Pa­pua is the coun­try’s largest and east­ern­most prov­ince, home to many rich tribal cul­tures. But around 4,000 hectares of rain­for­est were cleared in the PT Me­gakarya Jaya (PT MJR) con­ces­sion in Boven Di­goel be­tween May 2015 and April 2017, ac­cord­ing to a Green­peace in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­leased this April. PT MJR is a sub­sidiary of the Ye­meni-owned Hayel Saeed Anam Group (HSA), which sells palm oil to house­hold names like Mars, Pep­sico, Unilever and Nes­tle. Some of this doc­u­mented for­est clear­ing was in peat­land ar­eas that were zoned for pro­tec­tion by t he gov­ern­ment in re­sponse to a ma­jor for­est fire in 2015. A Pres­i­den­tial Reg­u­la­tion of De­cem­ber 2016 ex­tended a 2011 mora­to­rium on forestry con­ces­sions, pre­vent­ing clear­ance even on con­ces­sions al­ready is­sued. Un­til re­cently, Pa­pua has been spared the rapid de­for­esta­tion seen in the iconic forests of Bor­neo and Sumatra. From 2011 to 2017 how­ever, 382,272 hectares of land in Pa­pua and West Pa­pua prov­inces were lost to palm oil. “Pa­pua is home to some of the planet’s last re­main­ing in­tact rain­for­est land­scapes,” said Bagus Kusuma, Se­nior For­est Cam­paigner at Green­peace In­done­sia. “Our in­ves­ti­ga­tion doc­u­mented the clear­ing of a for­est area al­most half the size of Paris, by a palm oil com­pany, HSA, which sells to the world’ s big­gest con­sumer brands.” Ex­tracted from the red­dish pulp of palm oil fruit, the oil is preva­lent in makeup prod­ucts, soaps, de­ter­gents, snacks, ce­re­als and much more. Its ubiq­uity stems from the trees’ year-round har­vest pe­riod and their abil­ity to pro­duce, on av­er­age, 10 tonnes of fruit per hectare: mak­ing it a much more space-ef­fi­cient source of oil than al­ter­na­tives like soya, rape­seed and sun­flower. Ac­cord­ing to the Euro­pean Palm Oil Al­liance, global con­sump­tion rose from 14.6m tonnes in 1995 to 61.1m tonnes in 2015, with China, In­dia, In­done­sia and the EU the big­gest con­sumers. Apart from In­done­sia, palm oil cul­ti­va­tion is seen in other trop­i­cal coun­tries in South­east Asia, South Amer­ica and Africa. Much of it is prob­lem­atic: threat­en­ing indige­nous an­i­mals and com­mu­ni­ties, and caus­ing the re­lease of car­bon diox­ide and meth­ane when the trees are felled and burnt, con­tribut­ing to cli­mate change. There are voices within the in­dus­try ad­vo­cat­ing for change. The Round­table on Sus­tain­able Palm Oil( RS PO ), eval­u­ates con­sumer brands’ use of palm oil against prin­ci­pals such as ‘en­vi­ron­men­tal re­spon­si­bil­ity and con­ser­va­tion of nat­u­ral re­sources and bio­di­ver­sity’ and ‘com­mit­ment to trans­parency’. Since the Green­peace re­port, Rspo-cer­ti­fied end users in­clud­ing Unilever, Mars, Nes­tle and Pep­sico have voiced their op­po­si­tion to HSA’S mem­ber­ship of the body. Unilever – who has dis­closed the lo­ca­tion of its more than 1,400 palm oil mills since Fe­bru­ary – has cut ties with the Ye­meni group “un­til the al­le­ga­tions have been sat­is­fac­to­rily ad­dressed by them”. Mars and Pep­sico say they’re look­ing into the sit­u­a­tion, while Nes­tle has sim­ply stated that it’s against de­for­esta­tion, ac­cord­ing to an ar­ti­cle in The Tele­graph news­pa­per back in April. None

of these com­pa­nies could be reached for fur­ther com­ment be­fore pub­li­ca­tion date. De­spite its ef­forts, RS PO still needs to strengthen its rules and com­mit­ments to be more rel­e­vant, said Green­peace’s Kusuma. “Green­peace has re­peat­edly found RSPO mem­bers de­stroy­ing forests for palm oil. The RSPO’S stan­dards are too weak, and its re­sponse to mem­bers who vi­o­late them is so slow and in­ef­fec­tual, that HSA is not alone in get­ting away with de­for­esta­tion while re­main­ing an RSPO mem­ber.” The In­done­sian Gov­ern­ment is also de­fend­ing their palm oil in­dus­try, lob­by­ing the EU Par­lia­ment into ex­tend­ing its 2021 dead­line to phase out palm oil used in bio­fu­els un­til 2030. The EU is the sec­ond-big­gest mar­ket for In­done­sia’s palm oil, much of which of it used for bio­fuel. “The EU has given it­self 12 years to phase out this de­struc­tive fuel, which is to­tally un­ac­cept­able,” said Nils Her­mann Ranum, head of the pol­icy and cam­paign depart­ment at t he Rain­for­est Foun­da­tion Nor­way. He pointed out that the ex­ten­sion is long enough to see the de­struc­tion of much of the re­main­ing In­done­sian forests. Steer­ing away from palm oil is not easy. Opt­ing for pub­lic trans­port or driv­ing a greener car may re­duce bio­fuel use. Other­wise, avoid heav­ily pro­cessed foods and scan la­bels for lists of in­gre­di­ents. This is com­pli­cated by palm oil be­ing dis­guised un­der some­thing like 200 dif­fer­ent chem­i­cal names–seewww. palm oil in­ves­ti­ga­tions. org for a list – and even un­der gen­eral terms such as veg­etable oil or veg­etable fat, both of which can be pre­dom­i­nantly palm oil. – Jackie Kwok

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