Monday, 14 April 2008

Malaysia Concerned About Negative Carbon Debt Campaigns On Palm Oil Industry, Says Peter Chin

April 14, 2008 11:56 AM

Malaysia Concerned About Negative Carbon Debt Campaigns On Palm Oil Industry, Says Peter Chin

KOTA KINABALU, April 14 (Bernama) -- Malaysia is greatly concerned by the negative campaigns targeted at the palm oil industry especially with regard to the distorting views on carbon debt, said Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities, Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui.

He said it was not fair to arbitrarily specify a cut-off point for calculation purposes and in the process shackle developing countries to incur carbon debt through deforestration.Speaking at the two-day International Palm Oil Sustainability Conference beginning here Monday, he said biased calculations on oil palm and carbon debt leading to distorting conclusions had emerged from Europe in an attempt to tarnish the image of the industry.

Chin said carbon emissions for palm oil plantation were often calculated based on carbon stocks of pristine rain forests as the starting point.

However, he said although carbon stocks in the oil palm ecosystem were high, they had been totally ignored in these studies.As such, he said these studies had proclaimed that palm oil cultivation would create a huge carbon debt that would take many years to settle in order to make the industry carbon neutral.

"In reality, every piece of land has a carbon sink capacity. Any piece of forested land with high carbon stock, once converted to agriculture, would automatically carry a carbon debt since agricultural land use usually carries a lower carbon stock than a pristine forest.

This principle applies whenever any forested land is converted to agricultural land."If you think about it, how many farms exist today that was not a forest many, many years ago, irrespective of whether that farm is situated in a temperate or tropical country?""Whatever happened to the carbon debt the farm incurred when the forest was first felled for agricultural development?" he asked.

Chin said an oil palm plantation, as a planted forest, drew many similarities with that of a forest in the production of oxygen, absorption of carbon dioxide and served as a habitat for various forms of biodiveristy to thrive in.

Referring to the Malaysian palm oil industry, he said that contrary to the current perception that large tracts of virgin jungles were bulldozed to make way for oil palm plantations and this eventually deprived endangered specifies of their natural habitat and pushed them to the brink of extinction, this was not happening in the country.

"Oil palm cultivation is Malaysia is strictly regulated and can only be developed on legally designated agricultural land and does not encroach on protected virgin rainforests. Moreover when oil palm is planted on degraded land that was previously used for other commercial activities, the planting of oil palms rehabilitates the land and converts it to a green lung," he said.

More importantly, he said oil palm being a perennial crop could be sustainably produced for 25 years or more with minimum disturbance to the environment compared to th cultivation of other oil seeds that needed annual harvesting and large land preparation, usually with the use of machinery.

In addition, he said Malaysian plantations took serious care of their environment."The Malaysian palm oil industry adopts good agricultural practices such as zero burning in platations and the utilisation of waste -- for example fresh fruit bunches are converted to organic fertilisers.

The industry is environmentally-friendly where the waste water that flows out of the treatment ponds are not harmful to aquatic life that live downstream. All these practices ensure that the palm oil industry operates in a sustainable manner," he said.-- BERNAMA