In the wake of Wilmar’s landmark policy shift away from deforestation and peatland development, a bizarre new effort to push for irresponsible palm oil production underlines just why the new policy is so important.
The Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners Association (Soppoa) “firmly rejected” the agreement forged by Wilmar and Unilever to stop trading palm oil grown on ultra-high-carbon peatland. Putting aside the question of whether palm oil growers are in any position to “reject” a private agreement between two companies responding to consumer demand, Soppoa makes possibly the single worst argument they could make: they deny the science that developing peat land releases tremendous amounts of greenhouse gas.
For the record:
- Peat is partially decayed vegetation that forms in wetland conditions, and is essentially one of the most carbon-rich resources on the planet. According to the IPCC, at 106 grams of carbon dioxide per megajoule, it has a higher carbon dioxide emission intensity than either coal (94.6 g CO2/MJ) or natural gas (56.1 g CO2MJ).
- In 2012, Yale and Stanford researches quantified the enormous amounts of carbon pollution that would result from projected palm oil expansion in Indonesian Borneo. They found that the development would release more than 558 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere in 2020 – more than all of Canada’s fossil fuel emissions, driven largely by expansion onto peat.
In the end, it seems clear that Soppoa understands they don’t have a strong case to make. Wilmar’s policy shift is important for a number of reasons, but promoting an end to peat land development for palm oil is perhaps one of the most direct and impactful. Soppoa should take this opportunity to review its practices and grow palm oil in ways that meets consumer demand.