Tuesday, 22 January 2008


Further news may be delayed for a while as I will be travelling.

Updates will follow just as soon as possible, so do please
check this page from time to time..

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Firms Back a Plan to Put

Firms Back a Plan to Put The Green in 'Green Gold'

By TOM WRIGHTJanuary 18, 2008; JAKARTA, Indonesia --

Global food and consumer goods companies are backing a plan to certify palm oil -- the vegetable oil used in products ranging from margarine to cosmetics, and, increasingly, biodiesel -- to ensure that its soaring production doesn't spur greater destruction of tropical rainforests.

The push for "green" palm oil has been joined by Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, Nestlé SA and H.J. Heinz Co. The companies have signed up with a consortium of 200 oil producers, commercial buyers and environmental groups to improve the industry's image and avert a consumer backlash.

Almost 90% of all palm oil is produced in Indonesia and Malaysia, which have seen widespread deforestation in recent years, much of it from illegal land-clearing and logging. The development of oil-palm plantations is causing the loss of forests in Indonesia, putting the survival of animals like the orangutan at risk, the United Nations Environment Program said in a report last year.
Workers collect oil-palm fruit on Malaysian plantation.

Environmental groups fear destruction will accelerate as the price of crude palm oil -- called "green gold" by some producers -- hits records. Palm-oil futures on the Malaysia Derivatives Exchange hit a high Monday of 3,420 Malaysian ringgit ($1,044) a ton amid surging demand from China and tight global supplies of other vegetable oils. More and more, palm oil is also being sought as a feedstock for biodiesel, pushing its price even higher in line with crude oil's increase above $100 a barrel in early January. By some industry estimates, Indonesian and Malaysian palm-oil exporters took in about $20 billion in 2007 from global sales.

But palm oil's increasing popularity has a dark side in the eyes of many retail consumers, especially in the West. In Europe, there are already signs of a backlash against palm oil grown on deforested areas. European Union officials on Wednesday will propose a new law on renewable energies that would ban the import of biodiesel derived from plants grown on recently destroyed forests.

The law must be approved by EU governments before taking effect.
In July, ASDA Group Ltd., a subsidiary of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. that is one of Britain's largest food retailers, announced it wouldn't accept products made from Indonesian palm oil until the consortium of producers and buyers launches its new green certification plan.

Some gasoline retailers, such as Sweden's OKQ8, a unit of Kuwait Petroleum Corp., have recently ditched plans to sell biodiesel using palm oil. Instead, the company is looking at animal fats or rapeseed oil.

Under pressure from retailers and environmental groups, U.S. and European consumer goods and food companies have been leading the push for higher standards in the palm-oil industry, say palm-oil producers and traders.

To improve palm oil's tarnished image, the Malaysia-based Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil -- as the industry consortium is known -- plans to introduce a system soon to certify palm-oil operations that meet strict environmental criteria.

The RSPO, which was created in 2003, hopes newly certified palm-oil refiners will start selling oil produced from "sustainable" plantations this year. The RSPO's more than 200 member companies account for about 40% of the annual global trade in palm oil. "Our customers are saying we want sustainability," says Bruce Blakeman, a spokesman for Cargill Inc., the huge U.S. commodities trading company. Cargill, an RSPO member, is a major buyer of crude palm oil, which it refines into various products and sells to food and consumer-goods makers.

Only operations that can prove they don't harm the environment will get its seal of approval, the RSPO says. And plantations growing on forested areas destroyed after November 2005, the month when negotiations toward the certification system began, will be excluded from certification altogether.

Checks to ensure compliance will be carried out by independent survey companies such as Switzerland-based SGS Group, with the inspections paid for by producers.

Jan Kees Vis, head of Unilever's sustainable agriculture program and president of the RSPO, believes certifying companies could help deflect some of the criticism leveled at the industry. "We are under scrutiny," he says in an interview. "We need to defend on a daily basis why we are putting palm oil in our products."

Unilever, which is a founding member of the RSPO, uses huge amounts of palm oil to make margarine brands like Flora. The Anglo-Dutch company is the largest single buyer of palm oil in the world, purchasing about 2.5% of the 40 million tons produced last year. In total, European companies buy 16% of annual production. Indonesia is a particular focus of concern over the impact of palm oil on the environment.

The future of the country's rainforests was a key topic at the U.N.'s climate-change meeting in Bali last month. Indonesia is the third-largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world behind the U.S. and China because of forest destruction. Forests store CO2 through photosynthesis, but fires set to clear forest land to make way for oil-palm plantations emit huge amounts of the greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.

As a result, large portions of Southeast Asia have been covered in a blanket of haze during the dry season from May to October in recent years.

With palm-oil prices rising, Indonesia's government plans to more than double the area of land planted with oil palm by 2011. That would mean an additional 7 million hectares, or 17.3 million acres, in new plantations, an area the size of Ireland. Although there is plenty of already denuded land available, plantation developers prefer to cut down mature rainforests and sell the valuable tropical hardwood to cover development costs, the U.N report says.

The U.S. uses more soybean oil -- cultivated mainly in the U.S. and Brazil -- than palm oil. But imports of palm oil tripled between 2003 and 2006 to 630,000 tons, amid a dearth of soybean oil, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. Demand for biofuels in the U.S. has pushed up corn prices -- a feedstock for ethanol -- prompting farmers to switch out of soybean cultivation.
In addition, many U.S. companies are buying more palm oil. While it's high in saturated fat, it doesn't contain trans-fatty acids, which can increase cholesterol levels, says Tod Gimbel, a spokesman for Kraft Foods Inc. Kraft, which buys its palm oil from RSPO members, including Cargill, uses the oil in its Cool Whip brand dessert topping and in cookies.

Pressure from big companies with operations in Europe is already pushing some palm-oil companies with spotty track records to change their behavior, says Unilever's Mr. Vis. "It's important for Indonesian and Malaysian producers to have access to Europe as a marketplace," he says.

Singapore-based Wilmar International Ltd., one of Asia's largest agribusiness companies and a supplier to Unilever, has ordered a halt in new plantation development at three of its Indonesian units after a report last year by the environmental group Friends of the Earth Netherlands found they were destroying natural forest on the Indonesian portion of Borneo island. The RSPO is now investigating the matter. A spokesman for Wilmar, which is partly owned by U.S. agribusiness giant Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., says it is taking "corrective actions" to rectify the situation and remains committed to getting its operations RSPO-certified. Under RSPO rules, the body can terminate Wilmar's membership if it fails to address the complaint by Friends of the Earth.

Still, some environmental groups criticize the RSPO's plans as unworkable. One problem, they say, is that palm fruit is typically collected by traders from a number of different plantations, large and small, and sold in bulk to companies. That makes it difficult to tell what portion is from sustainable sources.

"Buyers are simply using the RSPO as a front to cover up the fact they don't have control over their purchasing," says Pat Venditti, head of Greenpeace International's forest campaign. He wants companies to boycott all palm oil produced from areas of Indonesia where rainforests are being destroyed.

Another concern is that plantation owners with poor environmental records could get one palm-oil operation certified while continuing to raze forests elsewhere. This is considered a risk because major buyers like China and India are largely interested in low prices and not in maintaining environmental standards, according to producers. China and India together buy about a third of annual palm-oil output.

The RSPO will start by certifying specific palm-oil operations to get a flow of sustainable palm oil on the market, says Vengeta Rao, the group's secretary general. But producers must submit plans to show they are working toward sustainability for all their operations. Failure to do so will lead to the revocation of all certificates. "The world has had enough of angelic statements" about sustainability, says Mr. Rao, whose parents once tapped rubber on plantations in Malaysia. "The world wants to see evidence."

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Orangutans miss jungle homes

Orangutans miss jungle homes

Wahyoe Boediwardhana, The Jakarta Post, Malang

In the past two years, Unyil, 6, has only been able to exercise by swinging from one rope to another in a square enclosure at the Animal Rescue Center in Petungsewu, Malang, East Java.
It is uncertain how long the male Kalimantan orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) will remain in the eight meters square enclosure.

This is because all of the enclosures in the orangutan reintroduction center in Nyari Menteng, which is about 30 kilometers away from Palangkaraya, the capital of Central Kalimantan, are full -- there is no room for any newcomer.

"I heard the center still has about 630 orangutans that have yet to be released into the wild," Iwan Kurniawan, the coordinator of the Animal Rescue Center (PPS) in Petungsewu told The Jakarta Post in December.

Unyil is one of four Kalimantan orangutans that are still "in transit" at PPS Petungsewu. Besides Unyil, there is 4-year-old Jackson, 5-year-old Boni and 13-year-old Noni.

Some of the orangutans were delivered to the rescue center by concerned citizens, while the rest arrived with Natural Resources Conservation officers who had confiscated the primates from their unlawful owners.

The orangutans at PPS Petungsewi are not alone in their plight. Those in other Animal Rescue Centers like PPS Jogjakarta, PPS Cikananga, West Java, and PPS Tasikoki in Minahasa, North Sulawesi, share the same fate, according to Iwan.

"This is an important area. Rescue centers are temporary transit shelters and we don't specialize in handling orangutans. Ironically, the Nyaru Menteng center is overcrowded because there are very few places where we can safely release the orangutans," Iwan said.

Despite being legally protected in Indonesia, orangutans are often hunted, killed, orphaned, injured or sold into captivity.

According to 2004 data from the International Workshop on Population Habitat Viability Analysis (PHVA), the population of orangutans in Kalimantan was 57,797, while Sumatra had an orangutan population of 7,501.

Hundreds of orangutans in Nyaru Menteng have not been released to the wilderness due to the lack of tropical forest area that is safe, suitable and appropriate for orangutan habitat, according to Rosek Nursahid, the chairman and founder of ProFauna International.

The official website of the Nyaru Menteng center says they have not released any rehabilitated orangutan since 1999. At present, 38 orangutans (including six child orangutans) are deemed ready for release.

According to Rosek, the problem has much to do with the loss of rainforest in the country -- the orangutans stronghold -- due to illegal logging, forest fires and the clearance of forest for housing, farming and plantations.

As of 2000, the natural orangutan habitat in Indonesia had reduced from 340,000 hectares to 165,000 hectares.

"The government must protect the orangutans after they are released. Otherwise the rehabilitation process is for nothing," Rosek said.

The government, through the Forestry Ministry, says it has worked hard to develop a national strategy and action plan for orangutans.

Yet, Rosek said the launching of the Conservation Strategy and Action Plan for Indonesian Orangutans 2007-2017, by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in the United Nation Climate Change Conference in Bali on Dec.10, was unsupported by real actions or conviction.

"The government's commitment is only lip service. There should be a 25-30 year moratorium on the conversion and destruction of forests to increase the size of orangutan habitats and boost their security," Rosek said.

The government should demonstrate its commitment by allocating funds for orangutan conservation to all animal rescue centers in Indonesia, banning the transfer of orangutans to safari parks, where they are exploited to entertain visitors, and fully supporting the moratorium on the conversion and destruction of Indonesian forests.

"Under the moratorium, we will be able to save both orangutans and the forest while under the Reducing Emissions from Degradation and Deforestation (REDD) scheme, it is not clear how the funds will be allocated," he said.

Rosek suggested a scheme that allowed a developed country to donate compensation funds for orangutans and Indonesian forest conservation by hectares.

"The price of an orangutan in Europe is between US$40,000 and $50,000. The compensation should be higher than that," he said.

"It is tragic that a globally recognizable species like the orangutan can no longer survive it in its jungle habitat. The government should be held responsible," Rosek said.

The President said the orangutan was the icon of the rainforest. Therefore the rainforest should be saved in order to save orangutans. Orangutans are now endangered because in the past 35 years, Indonesia has lost about 50,000 orangutans.

"If this condition continues, in 2050 the orangutan will be extinct," he said.
That is why the Indonesian government launched the strategy and action plan for orangutan conservation, the President said. He also asked the nation to support environmentalists' efforts to save the orangutans.

Controversial judges get promoted to new posts

Controversial judges get promoted to new posts

Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post, Medan January 15, 2008

The Supreme Court has promoted deputy chief justice of the Medan District Court Robinson Tarigan to head of the East Jakarta District Court.

Robinson was a member of the panel of judges who pardoned illegal logging suspect Adelin Lis three months ago.

The promotion was not widely publicized and his name was missing from the list of judges working at the Medan District Court.

Robinson's promotion would likely be followed by the presiding judge in the trial case, Arwan Byrin, currently chief of the Medan District Court.

Reports also suggest Arwan would be promoted to justice head in Palembang, South Sumatra, at the end of the month.

Medan District Court spokesman Jarasmen Purba said Monday Robinson had been transferred from Medan to Jakarta for nearly a month, adding the Supreme Court had yet to appoint Robinson's replacement.

"His position has been vacant for nearly a month," Jarasmen said.
"We don't know who his replacement will be. It's for the Supreme Court to decide," he told The Jakarta Post.

Asked whether or not Robinson's promotion was related to Adelin's acquittal, Jarasmen said he was not authorized to answer the question.

"The Supreme Court has appointed Sunaryo to replace Arwan at the Medan District Court," Jarasmen said.

"He is still deputy chief of the Jambi District Court. The transfer of duty ceremony may likely be conducted at the end of the month."

Members of the panel of judges who heard Adelin's trial and who have been reportedly promoted include Arwan Byrin, Robinson Tarigan, Dolman Sinaga and Jarasmen Purba.
The only panel member who did receive a promotion is Ahmad Semma.

Asked about his views over the matter and reports around his appointment as the Surabaya District Court deputy chief, Jarasmen said the matter was under the full authority of the Supreme Court.

"It's the Supreme Court's domain," Jarasmen said.
"So far, I have not received any signs indicating I would be appointed as the deputy chief of the Surabaya District Court."

Law practitioner Ikhwaluddin Simatupang, also director of the Medan Legal Aid Institute, said he regretted the Supreme Court's decision to promote judges involved in Adelin's case.
Ikhwaluddin said the promotion was like a gift to judges who had been able to acquit Adelin from being convicted.

"The inconspicuous promotion is contradictory to the measures taken by the prosecutor's office by punishing a number of prosecutors who were proven guilty of mishandling the case," Ikhwaluddin told the Post on Monday.

The Attorney General's Office recently demoted the ranks and salaries of three prosecutors handling Adelin's case.

They were former head of the North Sumatra Prosecutor's Office Teuku Zakaria and former special crimes assistants Sultan Bagindo Fahmi and Mochtar Hasan.
They were responsible for committing severe disciplinary violations.

No more logging at Malua, Ulu Segama


No more logging at Malua, Ulu Segama

14 January, 2008

Kota Kinabalu: Commercial logging operations at the wildlife-rich Ulu Segama and Malua forest reserves stopped on Dec 31.

But logging companies have been given extra time to take out the felled timber.

Sabah Forestry Department Director Datuk Sam Mannan said ongoing rehabilitation work at both forest reserves, three times the size of Singapore, were being accelerated even as the logging companies continued to transport out the timber.

"They couldn't remove all the stocks because of heavy rainfall in November and December," he said.

"We felt it would be better to allow them more time to remove the logs instead of letting them rot in the jungles."

He said rehabilitation of the two forest reserves totalling 237,777ha near the east coast Lahad Datu district which began last year would be speeded up this year.

Mannan said that last year, silvicultural works (tending of existing trees) were carried out in an area of some 4,000ha within both reserves while a similar area would be covered this year.

In addition, native trees species such as keruing, seraya and kapor were planted last year over some 400ha in both forest reserves, known to be home to diverse wildlife such as sun bears, gibbons, tambadau or wild buffaloes, Borneo pygmy elephants, Sumatran rhinos and orang-utans.

"We intend to increase the planting area to some 1,500ha in 2008," Mannan said, adding that the rehabilitation work would cost several million ringgit.

"The silvicultural works cost about RM350 per hectare while the planting works which include site preparation and others cost about RM2,500 per hectare," Mannan said.

Logging had been carried out at both forest reserves for more than 30 years and operations were stopped as recently as five years ago.

Timber extraction, however, resumed and in March 2006, Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman announced that Ulu Segama and Malua were being bequeathed as Malaysia's biodiversity gift to the world by the end of last year.

Environmentalists voiced their alarm at the resumption of logging operations, which they said would affect the wildlife there.

A State Government 2003 report had stated that there were about 800 orang-utan in Malua while Ulu Segama was home to about 2,000 of the primates.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Biofuels 'are not a magic bullet'


Biofuels 'are not a magic bullet'

By Richard Black Environment correspondent, BBC News website

Biofuel crops can vary widely in their climate benefits Biofuels may play a role in curbing climate change, says Britain's Royal Society, but may create environmental problems unless implemented with care.

In a new report, the Society suggests current EU and UK policies are not guaranteed to reduce emissions.

It advocates more research into all aspects of biofuel production and use.
The report says the British government should use financial incentives to ensure companies adopt cutting-edge and carbon-efficient technologies.

"Biofuels could play an important role in cutting greenhouse gas emissions from transport, both in Britain and globally," said Professor John Pickett from Rothamsted Research, who chaired the Royal Society's study.

Nature has provided countless potential solutions in organisms as diverse as cows and microbes
Dianna Bowles, York University"But it would be disastrous if biofuel production made further inroads into biological diversity and natural ecosystems.

"We must not create new environmental or social problems in our efforts to deal with climate change."

Variable savings
Biofuels - principally ethanol and diesel made from plants - are one of the few viable options for replacing the liquid fuels derived from petroleum that are used in transport, the source of about one quarter of the human race's greenhouse gas emissions.

Vehicles, and the infrastructure for delivering fuel through filling stations, can be modified at marginal cost - certainly compared with the price of a large-scale switch to hydrogen or electric vehicles, even if they were to prove technologically and economically worthwhile.

Hence the adoption by Europe and the US of policies to stimulate biofuel production and use.
But a number of recent scientific studies have shown that the carbon savings from using biofuels compared with petrol and diesel vary hugely, depending on what crop is grown and where, how it is harvested and processed, and other factors.

EU to reconsider biofuelsThere are also concerns that widespread planting and use of biofuel crops would threaten natural ecosystems and raise food prices.

Policymakers are increasingly aware of such concerns. Before the Royal Society launched its report, European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas told the BBC that the EU had not foreseen all the issues thrown up by its target of providing 10% of Europe's transport fuel from plants.

Launching the Royal Society report, Professor Pickett noted that current EU and US policies did not mandate that biofuels should achieve any carbon saving.

The report said that the UK government's Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO), which mandates that 5% of fuel sold on filling station forecourts by 2010 must come from renewable sources, suffers from the same flaw, though changes are being discussed in Whitehall.

As a result, the report concludes, these policies "will do more for economic development and energy security than combating climate change".

Next generation
On the UK policy front, the Society advocates:
extending carbon pricing to transport fuels
providing specific incentives for innovative approaches to fuels and vehicles
extending the RTFO to 2025

More generally, it says research into new biofuel technologies should be encouraged through financial incentives.

Of particular interest are ways of processing lignocellulose, the material which makes up the bulk of many plants and trees. Learning how to convert this easily and cheaply into ethanol or other biofuels would make refining much more efficient, and vastly expand the range of crops that could be used.

Biofuels: Next generation"What we have to do is to undertake research and development in such a way that we can unlock the tremendous potential that nature has provided us with in terms of getting enzymes to degrade cellulose and make ethanol," said Professor Dianna Bowles from the University of York, another member of the Royal Society's study group.

"Nature has provided countless potential solutions in organisms as diverse as cows and microbes, and that offers tremendous hope."

But alongside this technology-focussed research, said Dr Jeremy Woods of Imperial College London, should go programmes aimed at measuring the true environmental and social impacts of different approaches.

He gave the example of African nations such as Tanzania, where various parties including the government, local entrepreneurs and multinational companies are exploring the potential of biofuel crops.

"Tanzania is quite likely to start indigenous biofuel production," he said, "and if they do it in a good way, they could improve food production and preserve biodiversity."

He suggested establishing some sort of certification scheme for biofuels, similar to ones already in existence for timber and fish, to show which are produced sustainably.

But, he said, there was a need to keep problems in perspective, particularly the idea that rainforest-destroying palm oil plantations were being established all over southeast Asia simply to provide biodiesel.

"Only about 0.7% of palm oil used in the EU is used for biofuel production," he said.

EU rethinks biofuels guidelines

EU rethinks biofuels guidelines

By Roger Harrabin Environment Analyst, BBC News

Europe's environment chief has admitted that the EU did not foresee the problems raised by its policy to get 10% of Europe's road fuels from plants.

Recent reports have warned of rising food prices and rainforest destruction from increased biofuel production.

The EU has promised new guidelines to ensure that its target is not damaging.
EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said it would be better to miss the target than achieve it by harming the poor or damaging the environment.

Clampdown promised
A couple of years ago biofuels looked like the perfect get-out-of-jail free card for car manufacturers under pressure to cut carbon emissions.

Instead of just revolutionising car design they could reduce transport pollution overall if drivers used more fuel from plants which would have soaked up CO2 while they were growing.
The EU leapt at the idea - and set their biofuels targets.

Since then reports have warned that some biofuels barely cut emissions at all - and others can lead to rainforest destruction, drive up food prices, or prompt rich firms to drive poor people off their land to convert it to fuel crops.

"We have seen that the environmental problems caused by biofuels and also the social problems are bigger than we thought they were. So we have to move very carefully," Mr Dimas told the BBC.

"We have to have criteria for sustainability, including social and environmental issues, because there are some benefits from biofuels."

He said the EU would introduce a certification scheme for biofuels and promised a clampdown on biodiesel from palm oil which is leading to forest destruction in Indonesia.

Some analysts doubt that "sustainable" palm oil exists because any palm oil used for fuel simply swells the demand for the product oil on the global market which is mainly governed by food firms.

US expansion
Mr Dimas said it was vital for the EU's rules to prevent the loss of biodiversity which he described as the other great problem for the planet, along with climate change.

On Monday, the Royal Society, the UK's academy of science, is publishing a major review of biofuels. It is expected to call on the EU to make sure its guidelines guarantee that all biofuels in Europe genuinely save carbon emissions.

In the US the government has just passed a new energy bill mandating a major increase in fuel from corn, which is deemed by some analysts to be useless in combating rising carbon dioxide emissions.

The bill also foresees a huge expansion in fuel from woody plants but the technology for this is not yet proven.

Story from BBC NEWS:http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/world/europe/7186380.stmPublished: 2008/01/14 00:49:29 GMT

Sunday, 13 January 2008



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Friday, 11 January 2008


Friends of the Earth International MEDIA ADVISORY For Release
on Wednesday 9th January 2008 from 9am GMT*'

SUSTAINABLE PALM OIL' ADVERT FALSE, SAYS WATCHDOG**LONDON (UK) / BRUSSELS (Belgium) , 9 January 2008 -* Friends of the Earth International has welcomed a ruling today by the UK advertising watchdog that describing palm oil as "sustainably produced" is false advertising.

The UK Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) ruling followed a Friends ofthe Earth International complaint against an advert by the MalaysianPalm Oil Council.

[1]The advert, which appeared on the TV channel BBC World in the summer of2007, was deemed to have used highly misleading wording and imagery.

Footage of a palm oil plantation was interspersed with shots of pristine rainforest, and accompanied with claims that palm oil is "a gift from nature, a gift for life", that "its trees help our planet breathe", and declaring that Malaysian palm oil has been "sustainably produced since 1917".

Friends of the Earth International complained that the statement"sustainably produced since 1917" is untrue: most palm oil is produced in a way that is not at all socially or environmentally sustainable.

The campaigning group also protested that the advert as a whole was misleading because it implied that palm oil production benefits the environment. Research shows that 86 per cent of all deforestation in Malaysia between 1995 and 2000 was attributed to palm oil development, threatening species such as the orangutan and the proboscis monkey as well as causing social problems for the people who live or depend on the forests.

The draining and deforesting of peatlands in South-East Asia, predominantly to make way for palm plantations, releases huge amounts of soil carbon into the atmosphere, accounting for a massive 8% of global annual CO2 emissions.

The ASA fully upheld Friends of the Earth International's complaints and condemned the statements for implying universal acceptance that palm oilis being sustainably produced.

The watchdog ruled that the Malaysian Palm Oil Council had not providedthe necessary evidence to back up such statements. The ASA also concluded that the adverts were misleading, "because there was not a consensus that there was a net benefit to the environment from Malaysia's palm oil plantations" and said that this advert should not be broadcast again.

Corporate Accountability campaigner for Friends of the EarthInternational Paul de Clerck said: "It is a complete lie to advertise palm oil as sustainably produced - it has devastating impacts on the environment and local communities. The UK advertising watchdog is the latest of many bodies to question palm oil's sustainability and the European Union must take note and rethink its plans to import vast amounts of palm oil for use as a biofuel.

"European Heads of State agreed in March 2007 that by 2020, ten percent of transport fuels in Europe should consist of plant-based agrofuels like palm oil. In addition, palm oil is being imported to fuel power stations in the EU.

To meet growing international demand for palm oil, Indonesia andMalaysia plan to double their oil palm plantations area to 18-22 million hectares, an area more then five times the size of the Netherlands.

A recent study by Friends of the Earth showed that there are grave environmental and social problems on palm oil plantations.

[2]FOR MORE INFORMATIONIN BRUSSELS:Paul de Clerck, Corporate Accountability Campaigner for Friends of the Earth International; Tel: +32 542 6107 and +32-494-380959 (Belgian mobile)Francesca Gater, Communications Officer for Friends of the Earth Europe;Tel: +32 2542 6105 and +32 485 930515 (Belgian mobile)IN LONDON:Nicky Stocks, Communications and Media Officer, Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland; Tel: +44-20 7566 1649 and + 44-7812659777 (UK mobile)

McDonald's See Animal Welfare Gaining Ground in UK

McDonald's See Animal Welfare Gaining Ground in UK

UK: January 7, 2008

OXFORD, England - Animal welfare will become of growing importance for British consumers and restaurant chain McDonald's wants improved standards from its suppliers, the head of the company's UK business said on Friday.

"Animal welfare across the next couple of years will become a mass topic of discussion in the general public," Steve Easterbrook, chief executive officer of McDonald's Restaurants Ltd told delegates at the Oxford Farming Conference.

Easterbrook noted that an upcoming British television documentary to be aired this month was looking at chicken farming and such programmes would encourage customers to look more closely at food and at food and farming practices.

McDonald's in Britain has served only free range eggs during the last 10 years and Easterbrook said the company was currently looking at providing canopy cover for chickens to encourage hens to range more.

He said the company also was working to improve pig rearing practices to allow them to behave more naturally so as to reduce tail biting ant to remove the need to routinely dock tails.

"We don't mind paying a fair price for that (higher animal welfare standards) and will pass it on appropriately if we believe it has provided added value (for customers)," he said.

Easterbrook said McDonald's British restaurants had led the move towards improved animal welfare but said such practices would spread across the company's European restaurants.
"I think the UK is to a large degree at the forefront...I do see a number of trends that do emanate in the UK rolling out across Europe," he said.

Easterbrook said the environment was also becoming an important factor in consumer buying preferences with the disposal of food contaminated waste a major challenge.

"There are no recycling companies of any scale in the UK which will collect food contaminated waste for recycling," Easterbrook said.

He said the company was testing an energy from waste scheme in Sheffield, England, under which non recyclable waste is turned into energy to power local homes and public buildings.
"It's clear to us already that the lack of infrastructure for recycling food contaminated waste is a problem the UK needs to get to grips with," he said.

Easterbrook said the company was also facing rising costs which it may have difficulty passing on to customers.

"Feed price rises have combined with energy rises to increase the cost of business considerably," he said.

Easterbrook said the company was generally reluctant to raise prices by more than the rate of inflation.

"We're also entering a period of real uncertainly in the economy generally so people are increasingly sensitive to price...which makes it absolutely the wrong time to pass on price increases," he said. (Reporting by Nigel Hunt; Editing by Peter Blackburn)

Story by Nigel Hunt

Indonesian president on fence-mending Malaysia visit

Indonesian president on fence-mending Malaysia visit
AFP copyright

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) — Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono arrived in Malaysia Thursday for a visit aimed at improving relations between the neighbours which observers have said are at their lowest point in decades.

In talks Friday with Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the leaders are expected to tackle irritants like the treatment of Indonesian migrant workers, as well as border issues and trade and investment.

Relations have been dogged by a series of spats including abuse of Indonesian labourers and maids, the assault of an Indonesian referee here, and charges that a traditional Indonesian dance and song was appropriated for a Malaysian tourism campaign.

Andreas Pareira, a member of the Indonesian parliament's foreign affairs commission, said bilateral ties were "at the worst point" in the past four decades, the Antara state-run news agency reported Wednesday.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said problems and misunderstandings, including on the labour issue, would take centre stage during the visit, the official Bernama news agency reported.

Indonesia has more than 1.1 million migrant workers in Malaysia -- with the figure running to as high as two million when undocumented workers are included -- and protests have been mounting over their treatment.

"There are clearly issues to be addressed in bilateral relations," Indonesian presidential spokesman Dino Patti Djalal told AFP in Jakarta.

"But the important thing is that both sides acknowledge that there are problems to be addressed and that they have the determination to address those issues, rather than just shove them under the carpet," he said.

Malaysia's influential Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak said this week that the neighbours had too much in common -- with the same language, culture, history and religion -- to allow petty squabbles to dominate.

"We should not allow a popular folk song like 'Rasa Sayang' to sour our relations", he said, referring to the recent controversy.

Najib said that both sides gained from the presence of Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia, and insisted that the government treated cases of worker abuse seriously, with offenders taken to court.

"But we must not allow such incidents to affect our relations. As the Malay adage goes, 'one should not burn the mosquito net just because of one mosquito'."

Djalal said that during the visit, officials are also hoping to form a joint commission that will be tasked with seeking ways to promote trade and investment between the countries.
Other topics include cooperation in trade of forestry and commodities such as palm oil, cocoa and pepper, he added.

The president is accompanied on the trip by foreign minister Hassan Wirayuda, trade minister Mari Pangestu, and energy minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro, among others.

Malaysia's king is to host a dinner for Yudhoyono Thursday where he will be awarded a royal honour.

Indonesia: WWF Says Logging Highway On Sumatra Island Threatens Indonesian Wildlife, Indigenous People

Indonesia: WWF Says Logging Highway On Sumatra Island Threatens Indonesian Wildlife, Indigenous People

2008-01-09 10:16

JAKARTA, INDONESIA: Asia Pulp & Paper and its partners are building a massive logging highway that will divide one of Indonesia's most important forests, threatening indigenous populations and endangering elephants, tigers and orangutans, an environmental group charged Tuesday (8 Jan).

The WWF also questioned the legality of the road-building project on Sumatra island, saying the paper company has already cleared an estimated 20,000 hectares of natural forest in the Bukit Tigapuluh Forest Landscape to provide logging trucks easy access to their mills in Jambi province.

Singapore-based APP, a major paper company, said it had a license for building the access road from relevant authorities.

The WWF said in an investigative report released Tuesday that land-clearing in the vast forest tract _ which contains some of the richest biodiversity in the world _ began after APP's forestry operations in neighboring Riau province were halted due to a police investigation of illegal logging.

Some of APP-affiliated companies were now converting natural forests in Jambi without proper professional assessments and in some cases without proper licenses, the environmental group charged, accusing them of threatening two indigenous tribes and Sumatran tigers, orangutans and elephants living in the area.

"With its high conservation values, the Bukit Tigapuluh Landscape should be protected and thus all natural forest clearance in the area has to be stopped," said Ian Kosasih, WWF-Indonesia's Forest Program Director.

"APP is one of the world's largest paper companies and we believe its global customers expect it to act like a responsible corporate citizen."

APP said its fiber suppliers were discussing possible conservation efforts in Jambi province with the local government, including a proposal to expand Bukit Tigapuluh National Park. (AP)

Papua New Guinea - 'eco hero' to 'eco zero'.

Papua New Guinea - 'eco hero' to 'eco zero'

By Charles Clover, Environment Editor Telegraph.co.uk
Last Updated: 6:01pm GMT 08/01/2008

Papua New Guinea has been accused of going from "eco hero" at Bali to "eco zero" by allowing the felling of a large area of rainforest on a remote island for a palm oil plantation.

The accusation came as satellite images showed that 12 per cent of the forest in part of Papua New Guinea, known as one of the world's wildlife hotspots, was felled between 1989 and 2000.
Satellite images from 1989 (left) and 2000 with the lighter areas showing the increasein deforestation on New Britain, Papua New Guinea.

The felling of forest on the island of New Britain badly affected 21 bird species, including 16 found nowhere else in the world such as the slaty-mantled sparrowhawk, New Britain bronzewing and black honey-buzzard, according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Papua New Guinea won applause from delegates of more than 180 countries at the climate talks in Bali when its Harvard-educated delegate, Kevin Conrad, told the United States: "If you are not willing to lead, then get out of the way."

Mr Conrad was a leading advocate of the agreement to negotiate a global treaty on avoiding rainforest destruction which was agreed in Bali.

However, Dr Derek Wall, the Green party's principal speaker, condemned the Papua New Guinea government for its decision to log practically most of Woodlark island, part of the Trobriand chain, to support the oil palm biofuel industry.

A Malaysian company, Vitroplant, has been granted permits by the PNG government to begin clearing 70 per cent of the rainforests on biodiversity rich Woodlark Island, some 150,000 acres, in order to establish an oil palm plantation.

Dr Wall said: "In my view the Papuan government have gone from green heroes to eco zeros.
"One of the major causes of climate change is rainforest destruction and Papua New Guinea is under assault from corporations who want to clear cut its forests. This corporate onslaught is aided by a government that just a few weeks ago we all thought was green."

Meanwhile, the satellite images of damage in New Britain, published in the journal Biological Conservation, prompted conservationists to call for urgent action to protect what remains of rainforest there.

Graeme Buchanan of the RSPB, the paper's lead author, said: "The area is unique and should be better protected and managed. "We think the rate of deforestation is accelerating and is already higher than the average for South-East Asia.

"The demand for timber and palm oil is likely to be driving this destruction and if nothing is done soon, some of New Britain's endemic species could disappear for good.

"Logging in the last 20 years has already left at least 10 birds close to extinction and if the rate of deforestation continues, all forest below 200m will be gone by 2060."

Six species, including the Bismarck kingfisher and green-fronted hanging-parrot, had lost or were predicted to lose more than one fifth of their habitat. The scientists concluded that numbers of these two species had probably dropped by more than 30 per cent.

Another 23 birds had lost over 10 per cent of habitat including the yellowish imperial-pigeon, whose population may have fallen by nearly a third.

The study claims to be the first to use satellite imagery to assess the threats facing individual bird species and conservationists say the technique could be invaluable in surveying other parts of the region where access is poor or an area too vast to cover on the ground.

Dr Stuart Butchart, a co-author from BirdLife International, said: "After wiping out the lowland forests of Malaysia and Indonesia, companies are now moving eastwards, to New Guinea and Melanesia, where they now threaten a whole new suite of species".

The Papua New Guinea High Commission in London declined to comment.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Illegal Logging Suspect Arrested in Singapore

Illegal Logging Suspect Arrested In Singapore

Source: The Jakarta Post - January 2, 2008

Anton Gunadi, an illegal logging suspect, was captured in Singapore on Sunday after more than a year on the run, a senior police officer saidTuesday.

"Police detectives picked up Anton on Sunday and brought him back home onMonday," National Police chief detective Comr. Gen. Bambang Hendarso Dhanuri told Detik.com newsportal.

"Anton is now being held under custody at the National Police headquartersand is still being interrogated. "The National Police will transfer Anton to South Kalimantan Provincial Police on Wednesday for further legal processing.

Anton is allegedly involved in two illegal logging cases. The first case involves 36 illegal logs while the second case involves 23 illegal logs.

The police announced Anton as suspect in the cases in March 2006. Anton, however, failed to show up when police summoned him and fled to Singapore.The police put him on the wanted list in April 2006. -- JP

Palming Us Off

Palming Us Off

Source: The Guardian - January 4, 2008
By Andy Tait

As the Guardian reports, scientists from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, writing in the magazine Science, explain how "first generation"biofuels, largely generated from food crops, could actually be causing more damage to the climate than the traditional fossil fuels they were designedto replace.

These views add to similar concerns expressed by many others including the UN, OECD, numerous academics, environmental and developmental NGOs and an increasing number in the private sector. National Express, for example, recently suspended its trials of biodiesel, largely due to environmental concerns.

We are being sold a pup by governments and by the biofuels industry: a solution to climate change that actually risks making the problem worse. Tackling climate emissions from the transport sector needs to start with strict mandatory fuel efficiency measures.

Biofuels could theoretically play a small role, if (and it's a big if) there are strict sustainability criteria in place. But draining, clearing and burning of vast tracts of rainforest and peatlands to make way for crops for biofuels is madness.

Further, using crops traditionally used for food to produce biofuels is hiking up food prices and creating yet more demand for agricultural land,leading to swathes of "cheap" rainforest being converted to farmland. Take Indonesia.

The country now holds the inauspicious world record for the fastest rate of forest destruction on the planet.

This forest destruction is increasingly driven by our insatiable demand for palm oil, one of a number of crops being promoted to solve our fuel needs. In January last year, $12.4bn-worth of investment was announced for biofuel production inIndonesia, where there are already 6m hectares of oil palm plantations.

Provincial governments are even more ambitious, planning for an additional 20m hectares of plantations, largely in the forested areas of Sumatra, Kalimantan and West Papua. Colossal quantities of greenhouse gases are being released as a direct result of forest clearance to make way for such plantations.

This clearance is having a devastating impact on both forest dependent communities and the incredible biodiversity in the country.

We are already tied into mandatory EU targets for biofuels use.Consequently, in October last year, the UK government enacted the snappily-titled Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO).

This piece oflegislation means that, from this April, all fuel suppliers will berequired to ensure that 2.5% of their sales in the UK come from biofuels -rising to 5% by 2010.

By the government's own admission, there will be no mandatory minimumsustainability standards in place until 2011 at the earliest. This means that for at least the next three years, there will be no way of knowing if the fuel we're putting in our cars was born in Borneo, elbowing out one of the last remaining rainforests on earth.

With climate change now readily acknowledged as the greatest threat facing the planet, it seems extraordinary that those in positions of political responsibility are ignoring the huge dangers inherent in biofuel productionto sell a deeply flawed "drop in" solution to emissions from the transportsector.

If demand for biofuels in the UK leads even indirectly to forest destruction, it will be an environmental scandal for which this government,which claims leadership on international action to protect rainforests, must be held to account.

Friday, 4 January 2008



Behaviour, Ecology and Conservation

Junaidi Payne and Cede Prudente

Publication date: 4th February 2008 Price: £24.99 hardback
Available from http://www.amazon.co.uk/

‘This well-documented, in-depth book by Junaidi Payne and Cede Prudente is an essential resource for those who want to gain a deeper understanding of one of the world’s most intelligent species and learn more about the conservation efforts dedicated to improving its long-term survival.’
- James P. Leape, Director General of WWF International

Orang-utans are a source of fascination to humans. Genetically very closely related to Homo sapiens, they are highly intelligent, sensitive creatures that seem at once both familiar and alien to us in their behaviour, culture and society. Junaidi Payne, a conservation biologist with WWF-Malaysia, provides a compelling insight into the world of orang-utans, their habitat, behaviour and characteristics, as well as an informative look the conservation and rehabilitation of this incredible species.

Fully illustrated throughout with stunning images by wildlife photographer and conservationist, Cede Prudent, this book reveals these solitary creatures in their rainforest homes and provides a window into the world of orang-utans. Capable of learning sign language and imitating human behaviour such as ‘brushing’ their teeth and ‘washing’ clothes, learn more about the ways in which they communicate and discover why they have been called the most intelligent species after human beings.

As well as information on their distribution, evolution and society, this book also raises important issues surrounding the ethics of keeping orang-utans in zoos, takes a look at the reasons why they are a threatened species and explores what can be done to ensure their survival. Orang-utans is a visually stunning and informative guide for anyone interested in the welfare of one of our closest relatives.

For more information, advance proofs or to request a review copy, please contact:
Lorraine McGee ( 020 7725 9928 8 Lorraine@nhpub.co.uk

Junaidi Payne is a British conservationist based in Sabah, Malaysia. He has worked for WWF-Malaysia since 1979 on wildlife survey, forestry and conservation planning projects. He is also an established author, who works include Wild Malaysia and This is Borneo (both published by New Holland).

A professional wildlife photographer and conservationist, Cede Prudente runs the North Borneo Safari and conducts photosafari trips in parks and wildlife reserves in Sabah. His images regularly feature in adverts, magazines and Malaysian tourism promotional material. Cede recently won the prestigious ‘Best Still Photography’ award at the Wildlife Asia Film Festival with a shot of a swinging orang-utan.

Farmers suffer from booming palm oil

Farmers suffer from booming palm oil

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta 4th January

The Indonesian Farmers' Union criticized the government Wednesday for mismanagement in the food crop sector, highlighting the massive displacement of farmers by the expansion of oil palm plantations.

Union chairman Henry Saragih said the palm oil industry had been aggressively expanding plantations to capitalize on a continuing rise in crude palm oil prices expected to result from higher world demand, especially in India and China.

He cited 2006 records of the Agriculture Ministry showing oil palm plantations had grown by more than 200 percent during the last decade -- from 2.7 million hectares in 1998 to 6.1 million hectares in 2006.

He said large-scale private companies, including PT Astra Argo Lestari and PT SMART, controlled 57 percent of plantation areas, while the government and small-scale private growers had the other 43 percent.

"As the oil palm plantations grew larger, the number of large-scale food crop farmers decreased, with many becoming small-scale growers (and even) farm laborers," he said.
Small-scale farmers are defined as having an average of 0.3 hectares under cultivation; farm laborers work for other farmers. Aggregate numbers have increased from 19.9 million families in 1993 to 25.4 million in 2003.

Henry also cited 2007 data indicating that poverty rates stood at 16.58 percent. "Some 63.52 percent of the poor people are villagers who mostly work as small-scale farmers or farm laborers."

He predicted that the conversion of food crop land areas would continue apace in the coming year, owing to the global campaign to replace non-renewable fossil fuel with sustainable bio-fuel.

Such bio-fuel may be derived from agricultural products, including the palm.

"Food crop farmers will continue to see a hard time in the coming years because of the lucrative palm oil industry and the fact the government has apparently sided with the industry by issuing policies that facilitate the expansion of oil palm plantations."

He cited a law on investment endorsed by the government in 2007 and a decree issued by the Agriculture Ministry in 2002; they grant concessions as large as 100,000 hectares for up to 95 years.

Those policies replaced previous regulations with 35 year and 20,000 hectare maximums.
Henry said takeover by big growers could hurt farmer's income and domestic food security as well.

"The government had earlier promised that the country would be able to meet its domestic rice demands in 2005, but the fact is we still have to import rice and the amount keeps rising."
In 2007, Indonesia imported 1.5 million tons of rice, an increase by 78 percent from 840,000 tons in 2006.

Henry said the rice imports had affected the price of domestic rice as foreign brands were cheaper. As a result, farmers suffered losses as they had to lower prices to compete.

"The government must stop the conversion of food crop land and revise its rice import policy to ensure that farmers stand a chance to improve their welfare." (lln)

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Corporate violations

Corporate violations

The StarOnline 1st January

THE litmus test of the integrity of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) probably lies in its handling of the first complaint filed against Wilmar International Ltd.

Three non-governmental organisations (NGOs) lodged the complaint last September with the RSPO and also the private investment arm of the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation.

The complaint surrounds the behaviour of three Wilmar-related companies operating in West Kalimantan since 2005, as revealed in the publication Policy, Practice, Pride and Prejudice – Review of Legal, Environmental and Social Practices of Oil Palm Plantation Companies of the Wilmar Group in Sambas District, West Kalimantan by Friends of the Earth (Netherlands), Lembaga Gemawan and KONTAK Rakyat Borneo.

The 98-page report said that Wilmar violated an Indonesian law that requires the approval of an Environmental Impact Assessment before planting begins, and that it had cleared forest beyond its allocated borders and without permits and consultation with local communities.

The report also noted that Indonesian authorities are suing Wilmar for intentional and systematic illegal burning of forests to clear land for plantations.

The expansion of oil palm plantations theatens to destroy what is left of Indonesia’s forests.All the purported offences are against the RSPO Principle and Criteria that promotes environmentally and socially responsible oil palm cultivation, as well as Wilmar’s own Corporate Social Responsibilities policies.

The Wilmar Group was created by Malaysian tycoon William Kuok Khoon Hong and Indonesian palm oil businessman Martua Sitorus in 1991. Wilmar is one of the largest global players in the edible oil sector. It is listed on the Singapore stock exchange with a turnover of US$5.3bil (RM18.5bil) last year.

After the recent takeover and merger of the plantation-based Malaysian Kuok Group and the American agri-business Archer Daniels Midland, the group is expected to handle at least a quarter of the global palm oil output.

Wilmar’s customer base includes major consumer products companies like Cargill, Unilever, Nestle and Procter & Gamble. It is developing its bio-energy sector through the construction of three biodiesel plants in Riau.

The complainants also highlighted the role played by multinational banks and the World Bank in financing Wilmar. The OCBC Bank, Dutch’s Rabobank, the CIMB Group and Britain’s Standard Chartered Bank are the main financers. The complainants criticised Rabobank and Standard Chartered for ignoring their own codes of conduct against unsustainable palm oil by giving out loans to Wilmar.

In accordance with RSPO statutes and bylaws, a Grievance Panel was established to address the complaint. The panel has received a response to the charges from Wilmar, as well as additional information from an Executive Board member, Indonesian NGO Sawit Watch.

The panel met on Nov 18 to address the complaint. RSPO president Jan-Kees Vis is tight-lipped on the outcome of the panel’s decision, stating only that “the recommendations will be conveyed to Wilmar.”

Sawit Watch and affected communities are pressing for a suspension of Wilmar’s membership in the RSPO. Until press time, the RSPO website has yet to post an official statement on the decision.

Eco-conscious palm oil

Eco-conscious palm oil

The Star online. Malaysia 1st January 2008

Oil palm companies are subjecting themselves to scrutiny to meet consumer demand for eco-friendly palm oil.

PALM oil is heading for certification – the first tangible sign of a commitment towards sustainable production of the versatile yet controversial commodity.

The first certificate is expected to be issued by the first quarter of 2008, after the call for environmentally and socially responsible production of the crop came five years ago.

Buyers are waiting anxiously for the certification as they have promised to supply certified palm oil to their clients – oil refiners, food manufacturers, consumer goods producers, retailers and even biofuel plant operators – who in turn have set deadlines to phase out the use of palm oil from uncertified sources.

Environmental campaigns in the West linking palm oil production to orang utan extinction, peat fires and displacement of indigenous communities have resulted in consumer boycotts of supermarket chains and demand for sustainable palm oil.

The march towards biodiesel production using palm oil has also met with warnings that the so-called green fuel could be a net emitter of greenhouse gases and accelerate, instead of stalling, climate change. There is also concern that the biofuel rush could come at the expense of food production, given that palm oil is the world’s most important edible oil.

At the recently-concluded fifth meeting of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in Kuala Lumpur, the verification and implementation mechanisms of the certification system were presented to some 500 participants from 30 countries representing major players in the palm oil supply chain, from growers to retailers, banks, investors, and pressure groups from environmental and developmental organisations.

The certification process will authenticate growers’ claims that their products are derived from plantations that follow the Principle and Criteria (P&C) set by the initiative. It will also enable manufacturers to assure consumers of product “traceability” through eco-labelling.

Palm oil is the most popular vegetable oil in the world commodity market, with 37 million tonnes produced last year. With its membership accounting for almost 40% of palm oil production and utilisation in the world, RSPO is regarded as an influential force for sustainable palm oil.
But several issues remain unresolved after five years of deliberations. Expansion of oil palm estates on fragile ecosystems and displacement of indigenous communities are two contentious issues that divide supporters and critics of RSPO.

Indonesia overtook Malaysia as the largest oil palm producing country with an output of 16 million tonnes last year. The area of land under oil palm plantation in Indonesia tripled between 1995 and 2005. Close to six million ha of plantation has been developed and millions more are planned.

A report by the Indonesian Forest Ministry and European Union states that to meet the rising world demand for palm oil from 20 million tonnes to 40 million tonnes by 2020, some 300,000ha of new estates will be needed each year. It added that inevitably, most new estates would come up in wetlands, as the more desirable dry lands are already occupied.

Such expansion plans are largely driven by the demand for biofuel in rich nations. In early 2007, the European Union endorsed a minimum target for biofuel to constitute 10% of its transport fuels by 2020.

Greenpeace has called for a moratorium on deforestation of peat swamp forests for oil palm expansion. Its political advisor for energy Wolfgang Richert says just like the campaign on soybean in the Amazon which got three major traders agreeing to stop expansion in the Brazilian rainforest, Greenpeace will continue to pressure RSPO members to commit on this important move.

“It’s crucial for RSPO to get rid of partial certification. Otherwise, it’ll just be another green-washing exercise, undermining its credibility.”

Richert also notes that Principle 7, which forbids new planting on primary forests or areas of High Conservation Value from 200, is weak.

“You can argue that most Indonesian forests are not primary forests anymore. So, RSPO will actually (end up) certifying palm oil produced from deforestation of secondary forests. RSPO members should commit to develop on the millions of hectares of abandoned, degraded land instead,” he says.

Friends of the Earth (FOE) highlights that as RSPO only gives sustainability certifications for each plantation, other plantations in a company could remain unsustainable.

“Inevitably, palm oil companies will use a sustainability certification to green-wash, even though it will by no means guarantee that the company is guilt-free of environmental and social violations. The RSPO must refuse to certify palm oil coming from any company still involved in destructive palm oil production,” said Paul de Clerck, FOE corporate campaigns co-ordinator.
FOE Europe chapter is campaigning against the EU biofuel policy, cautioning that the demand for palm oil will drive conversion of forests to plantations on a scale far beyond what the RSPO could guarantee is sustainable. It has called for a moratorium on European financial subsidies and targets that encourage the development and production of large-scale biofuels.