- Deforestation to make way for oil palm plantations increased for the second year in a row in Indonesia, the world’s largest producer of palm oil, reversing a decade-long decline in forest loss.
- One third of deforestation in 2023 could occur on carbon-rich peatlands, increasing the potential for massive greenhouse gas emissions as these areas are cleared and drained in preparation for planting.
- Historically, deforestation for plantations in Indonesia was concentrated on the island of Sumatra, but the increase in the past two years has occurred mostly on the Indonesian islands of Borneo and Papua.
JAKARTA – Deforestation by the palm oil industry in Indonesia will increase for the second consecutive year in 2023, reversing a decade of gradual decline, according to an analysis by technology consultancy TheTreeMap.,Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
Palm oil companies in Indonesia, the world’s top producer of palm oil, cleared 30,000 hectares (about 74,100 acres) of forest last year for plantations, up from 22,000 hectares (54,400 acres) in 2022. The downward trend began after a record 227,000 hectares (561,000 acres) – an area almost twice the size of Los Angeles – were deforested in 2012.
Expansion of industrial oil palm plantations in Indonesia from 2001 to 2023 with emphasis on forest conversion. White bars represent oil palm-driven deforestation or forest areas cleared and converted to plantations in the same year. Black bars represent non-forest areas converted to palm oil. The sum of the white and black bars shows the area of plantations added each year. The ‘forest’ here is old growth, high carbon and of high conservation value. Refer to Gaveau et al. 2022 for methods and definitions.
France-based TheTreeMap used plantation concession data from Greenpeace to identify 53 companies behind plantation expansion and resulting deforestation, 20 of which had cleared carbon-rich peatlands.
The largest deforested company was Silyandri Enki Abadie (CAA), whose three subsidiaries deforested 2,302 hectares (5,688 acres) in its concessions.
A recent investigation into The Gecko Project linked CAA to Indonesian group First Resources, a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the world’s largest association for ethical palm oil production. The investigation alleges that First Resources used “shadow companies” to circumvent sustainability standards while projecting an image of environmental accountability since it adopted a zero-deforestation pledge in 2015.
According to the investigation, companies controlled by the group have cleared more than 95,000 hectares (235,000 acres) of forest since First Resources announced zero deforestation.
TreeMap also identified deforestation in the concessions of a group of companies called New Borneo Agri (NBA) or Sulady Group, which is also reportedly linked to First Resources. These alleged ties led to a complaint against First Resources being filed with the RSPO in 2021.
In the latest development in the case, in January this year a coalition of Indonesian civil society organizations made further allegations against First Resources using fresh evidence collected by The Gecko Project’s investigation.
The coalition said, “Documents obtained during the investigation of The Gecko Project provide strong evidence that First Resources Limited is in breach of current RSPO group membership rules, which require mandatory registration of corporate groups under a membership Is.”
The ongoing complaint against First Resources is the first to test the robustness of the 2020 RSPO membership rules, and is still in the deliberation stage, meaning a formal investigation has not yet started.
“It is hoped that independent investigators will consider the new evidence in their upcoming investigation,” the CSO said.
First Resources has denied operating any shadow companies.
“It is important to us to highlight the factual inaccuracies in the report, and we would like to point out that First Resources does not have any ownership stake in or any management role in CAA and the NBA/Sulady Group,” the company told Mongabay in an email. ” ,
“First Resources has not purchased any palm oil products from CAA and the NBA/Sulady Group, and will not purchase from any company that is not in compliance with our policy on Sustainable Palm Oil. Therefore, First Resources cannot be held responsible for the actions or inactions of CAA or the NBA/Sulady Group.
Responding to several complaints at the RSPO, First Resources said it would remain fully cooperative throughout the process.
“Additionally, it is important to let our stakeholders know that this process will now undergo an independent investigation,” the company said. “This step has been taken to ensure a thorough, fair and impartial investigation into the ongoing matter. Thus, First Resources requests all parties to respect the ongoing process and await the outcome before drawing conclusions or making any claims.
Satellite animation shows primary forest being cleared for palm oil preparation in Inti Kebun Sawit, West Papua, reportedly owned by Silyandri Anki Abadi. Created using Planet/Nikfi images. Processed in Nusantara Atlas.
one-fifth of total national emissions
Zero-deforestation pledges made by First Resources have been credited with reversing a decade-long decline in deforestation driven by oil palm plantations. Known in the industry as NDPE policies for “No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation”, these were adopted by palm oil producers, traders and consumers following public pressure and campaigns by environmental NGOs and consumer groups. Has been widely adopted.
Historically, deforestation for plantations in Indonesia was concentrated on the island of Sumatra, which is today the country’s palm oil stronghold. But the increase in deforestation over the past two years has occurred mostly on the Indonesian islands of Borneo and Papua.
Crucially, one third of deforestation in 2023, 10,787 hectares (26,655 acres), occurred on peatlands, a carbon-rich landscape that, when cleared and drained, becomes susceptible to fire. These can cause flammable peat soils to burn for several weeks, releasing large amounts of greenhouse gases in the process.
Data from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) shows that oil palm plantations were the largest contributor to deforestation in Indonesia between 2021 and 2022, resulting in annual GHG emissions of 200 million metric tons.
According to European Commission data, Indonesia’s total emissions for 2022, which do not include land-use areas covering plantations, were 1,240 million metric tons, a record high.
“So emissions from palm oil [industry] That’s about one-fifth of Indonesia’s emissions,” said Heri Purnomo, CIFOR senior scientist and deputy country director.
He said the challenge facing the industry at this time is how to reduce its emissions through protecting forests and at the same time developing the economy of palm oil producing areas in Indonesia. To tackle this question, CIFOR has developed a platform called the Simulation of Indonesian Palm Oil Sustainability (SIPOS), which allows users to assess trade-offs between economic growth, emissions reductions, and social benefits.
The platform can calculate the amount of emissions produced by the plantation industry and the increase in emissions for a given increase in production output and income for smallholder farmers. Identified increases in emissions could also be offset or mitigated through various interventions, such as capping peat and forest clearances, boosting the productivity of smallholders, or purchasing carbon credits.
Deforestation in East Kalimantan for palm oil plantations. Image Rate A. By Butler/Mongabay.
EU deforestation regulation
Benny Okarda, a senior research officer at CIFOR, said the SIPOS platform can also be used by stakeholders to measure the impact of the EU regulation on deforestation-free products, also known as EUDR.
Recently adopted legislation bans the import into the EU of agricultural products coming from deforestation and illegal sources, with the aim of ensuring that products consumed on the EU market are not produced in the world after 2020. Not contributing to deforestation or forest degradation anywhere.
The law applies to seven commodities – beef, cocoa, coffee, palm oil, rubber, soy and timber – and requires producers and traders of these commodities to conduct due diligence in their supply chains before being allowed to trade these products in the EU. have to do. market.
In Indonesia, there are concerns that regulation will adversely affect smallholder oil palm farmers, who account for a significant share of the country’s total palm oil production. Abetnego Tarigan, deputy for human development in the Office of the Presidential Chief of Staff, cited government figures showing that the livelihoods of 15.7 million independent smallholders would be affected by the EUDR.
CIFOR’s Heri said Indonesia could indeed benefit from the EUDR, but only if the country addresses issues still plaguing the industry, such as illegal plantations in forest areas and the ongoing rate of deforestation. He said the 2020 cutoff date would make it easier for Indonesia to comply, noting that only 1% of oil palm production in Indonesia since then has occurred on deforested land, according to CIFOR data. This compares to 14% from 2010 and 54% from 1995 to 2000.
“We can get sustainable palm oil,” Herry said. “It is okay that there is still a lot of work to do, considering that other countries are not much better than us [on sustainable palm oil], “So we have to be confident because we have achieved a lot, like reducing deforestation.”
Banner image: Deforestation for palm oil in East Kalimantan, Indonesia in 2016. Photo courtesy of Linus.
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Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)