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Rush for GHG emission plan creates uproar in RSPO
author : StarBiz Date :20 October 2009
Commodities Talk - By Hanim Adnan

THE integrity of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has been heavily questioned following its recent decision to adopt the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emission draft into the grouping’s existing principles and criteria (P&C), as well as its backing for a proposed ban on peat-soil land development for oil palm cultivation.

The proposals, which are scheduled for tabling at the RSPO 6th AGM in Kuala Lumpur next month, have created an uproar among RSPO stakeholders, especially oil palm planters in Malaysia and Indonesia.

RSPO is an international organisation which aims to develop and implement global standards for sustainable palm oil.

But now many are accusing RSPO of succumbing to the demands of Western non-government organisations (NGOs), whose motives are to jeopardise the steady efforts toward sustainable palm oil production.

They also argued that the inclusion of GHG calculations into the RSPO’s P&C are against the original objectives of RSPO, which is supposed to be a voluntary industry initiative and cannot dictate the end-use of certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO).

If so, why is palm oil being singled out when no other food crops in the world are being certified on GHG certification criteria?

The RSPO draft is said to be heavily biased with emphasis on biofuel considerations. Hence, a separate P&C for CSPO for food and biofuel is strongly suggested as crude palm oil (CPO) is mainly sold for food and pharmaceutical purposes, while biofuel only takes up about 1% of the world’s total CPO production.

In the case of peat land development, peat lands worldwide, including those from temperate countries, are being utilised for commercial purposes, so why shouldn’t Malaysia and Indonesia be allowed to allocate part of its resouces for oil palm to generate revenue, especially for smallholders?

Plantation groupings such as Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners’ Association (SOPPOA), the Malaysian Palm Oil Association (MPOA) and its peer Indonesia-based GAPKI (Gabungan Pekebun Kecil Indonesia) strongly object to the adoption of the proposed amendments to the RSPO P&C and implementation of the draft on a moratorium on peat and carbon stock value at 35,000ha.

It is a new area and RSPO should not be turned into a “guinea pig” and jeopardise the rice bowl of the palm oil producers to satisfy the qualms of NGOs, according to MPOA.

SOPPOA, meanwhile, is proposing that the GHG emission criteria for palm oil should only be adopted when all the oils and fats producers involved in the biofuels industry implement the GHG emission criteria simultaneously and that there is a moratorium on all peat development in all countries worldwide (before banning peat development in Indonesia and Malaysia).

It also calls for countries that are forced to maintain their forest areas to be adequately compensated annually, based on the total economic opportunity loss of the said areas. An amount of US$5,000 per hectare annually is proposed.

Malaysian and Indonesian stakeholders also view RSPO as a voluntary standard and should not infringe on the sovereign rights of any nation in determining its right to use its land in accordance with its own needs.

In fact, palm oil producers worldwide, including Malaysia, are taking steps to contribute to the global mitigation of GHG emissions.

GAPKI wants the RSPO executive board to commission additional scientific research projects to fill the wide gap in knowledge with the scope of research covering social and economic aspects, as they are equally important in the production of sustainable palm oil.

It recommends that discussions of GHG issues in the oil palm industry be in line with the global context, including other GHG emitters, with local considerations based on reasonable and logical applications, while the interests of smallholders are not marginalised.

In Malaysia, about 10% are independent smallholders and 30% are scheme settlers from Felda, Risda, Felcra and Salcra, contributing 40% of total national palm oil production.

Like all new schemes, it will need time to be field-tested for adjustments and fine-tuned, for example, in the case of indirect land use change on corn where the US government allowed delayed adoption of five years and a period of study before implementation.

Hence, why the rush to push through the GHG emission proposal despite serious concerns raised by palm oil producers? Are there vested interests involved?

This seemingly rushed job may even discourage RSPO members, especially producers who see the proposals as being backed by the representatives of “non-producers”.

 Hanim Adnan is assistant news editor at The Star. A Sarawak planter told her during an RSPO consultation on GHG emission, he was reminded of a quote by the Italian economist, Ferdinando Galiani (1770): “Believe me, do not fear crooks or evil people, fear the honest person who is wrong. That person is in good faith, he wishes everyone well, and everyone has his confidence: but unfortunately his methods fail to get out the good in humans.”

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