Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Palm oil companies talk while the rainforests burn

Greenpeace web site

Palm oil companies talk while the rainforests burn

Posted by jamie on 23 December 2008.

Fire burns through forest in Sumatra, clearing the area for plantations

© Greenpeace/Novis

It's been a few weeks since the Esperanza's tour of Indonesia wrapped up with an exhausting but thrilling week of direct action focused on various palm oil tankers, and I've since left those humid equatorial climes to return to a chilly British winter. But even though the ship has moved on to other countries and campaigns, the palm oil campaign continues and in the past few weeks there have been some developments.

The most obvious has been annual meeting of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in Bali - this could have been the moment the industry got its act together and did something other than spin the usual load of greenwash over its involvement in the destruction of south east Asia's rainforests. Sadly, it was not to be. Although our ship painting/blockading actions drew a lot of attention, as did our earlier revelations about United Plantations and their 'sustainable' palm oil, no real progress was made.

A few small glimmers of hope did emerge. The most significant was a resolution put forward by Unilever which could ultimately lead to important forest and peatland areas being marked off limits for conversion into plantations. The resolution was accepted but before you get too excited, it will now go to a working group who will discuss and debate how this could be achieved. Meanwhile, palm oil producers like Sinar Mas are still hacking back the forests, day in day out.

Shortly after the RSPO meeting, campaigners from Greenpeace and other Indonesian organisations met again with representatives from major palm oil companies, including Sinar Mas, Musim Mas and Sime Derby, who seem to be feeling the heat from our campaign and wanted to talk about what it would take to bring it to an end.

Unfortunately, talking seems to be the only thing these companies are interested in so the campaigners presented a series of pre-conditions the companies would need to meet before there could be any further discussions. Most important of all was that they bring an immediate halt to their bulldozers in the field. The eventual response from them was that no, they wouldn't meet the conditions and they would much rather negotiate through the RSPO, thank you very much.

We don't need more talk, we need swift action to bring deforestation to an end and the only way to do that is with a moratorium. Once the bulldozers have stopped, everyone can haggle and debate as much as they like but for now, our campaign continues into 2009.