'CERTIFIED' PALM OIL NOT A SOLUTION TO SOCIAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL WOES
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA November 3, 2009 -- Certifying palm oil is not a solution to the environmental damage and human rights violations caused by oil palm plantations, said Friends of the Earth International today during the meeting of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in Malaysia.
“The certification of palm oil by the RSPO does not halt deforestation, it does not halt the expansion of damaging oil palm plantations and it does not benefit local communities. Basically it fails to deal with the causes of the palm oil problems,” said Friends of the Earth International Agrofuels Campaign Coordinator Torry Kuswardono from Indonesia.
Small but quickly growing quantities of palm oil are being certified by the RSPO. The certification of palm oil is seen by many as a way to make the palm oil industry look 'responsible' or 'sustainable'.
“Certifying palm oil as responsible or sustainable makes consumers feel good and encourages increased consumption, which is precisely the root cause of the problem” added Torry Kuswardono from Indonesia.
“Since palm oil has major carbon footprint, any talk of 'certified' palm oil must take this issue seriously, but the RSPO is not doing that. Instead of adopting voluntary schemes like the RSPO, national governments should pass and enforce laws to control the damaging expansion of palm oil. They should also critically assess if palm oil can still play a role in current or future poverty alleviation programmes. We believe it is part of the problem, not the solution," said Teguh Surya, Head of Campaign Department of WALHI/Friends of the Earth Indonesia.
“Instead of using the certification smokescreen, stakeholders should address the real problem, which is the increasing and unsustainable demand for palm oil, especially as agrofuel,” he added.
Essentially, RSPO companies are subjected to technical principles and criteria, but social and environmental issues of oil palm cultivation are largely framed within flawed political processes, poor governance and unsustainable market demand.
Understood within this context, the RSPO is a voluntary certification process for a market premium and membership that may be able to add a much sought after and totally misleading 'green tag' to the industry. Moreover, it provides certification without having to actually address some of the most very basic, structural issues that gave rise to the adverse impacts of oil palm cultivation.
Friends of the Earth International therefore does not regard the RSPO as a credible certification process as it is only a limited tool of technicality which is not able to adequately address the horrendous impacts of oil palm cultivation on forests, land and communities.
Friends of the Earth International is the world's largest grassroots environmental federation with 77 national member groups in 77 countries and more than 2 million individual members and supporters.
*1. The problems of certification of palm oil*
Certification as a means to make the palm oil industry sustainable fails to deal with the root causes of the problem. The destruction caused by the expansion of palm oil is caused by the excessive and irrational use of vegetable oil, either as a foodstuff, industrial oil or agrofuel. Sustainable production can only be achieved by halting the increased demand and over-consumption in order to create sustainable levels of demand.
Some of the biggest environmental and social problems are caused by the actual expansions of palm plantations. No certification scheme has so far come up with a solution to the deforestation, habitat loss and social conflicts caused by displacing agricultural activities elsewhere from these expansions. It is likely that this will never be solved by certification.
Wider societal problems created by the expansions fall outside of certification schemes and need to be addressed urgently. Rising land prices as a result of the expansions cause great harm, as does the rising price of food as a result of the displacement of local food production.
In many producer countries there are high levels of corruption, weak governance, little land use planning or formal land ownership and a disregard to the right of local and indigenous peoples. Within a context of little transparency and likely ineffective monitoring it is highly unlikely that certification schemes will be fully implemented and there is big potential for fraud.
Certification schemes are mainly developed to please consumer markets in the North. These schemes therefore run the danger of persuading the public that palm oil is sustainably produced, therefore giving support to their continued use and deflecting from the real causes of the problems. Likewise they can be used by industry to fend off criticism without them addressing the unsustainable nature of their business.
Voluntary market-based mechanisms are no replacement for strict legislation and will not be able to fully influence the behaviour of the global oil palm market. The lack of political will to strictly regulate the oil palm commodity market allows companies to “pick and mix” whether they participate and can manage certified estates at the same time as being involved in uncertified estates. They can also be minor shareholders in estates involved in malpractices.
*2. The RSPO is full of loopholes*
The full implementation of the RSPO will not guarantee sustainability. It is unlikely that a certification scheme can be comprehensive enough to deal with the issues at stake. For example, with the RSPO:
* There is no credible verification process and plantations have already been certified despite serious breaches of RSPO Principles and Criteria.
* Most palm oil is produced by large corporate groups that own hundreds of thousands of hectares of oil palm plantations. RSPO does not require all producers to get the entirety of their estate certified at once. Companies need to have a 'realistic and adequately' ambitious plan for certifying their other plantations, if they have ownership of more than 51% of that plantation, but since RSPO has not set a timeline for this, RSPO members can avoid taking any steps towards the certification of their land.
* The already weak criteria adopted by the RSPO membership in November 2005 have since been significantly watered down in the national interpretation processes, such as on matters pertaining Free, Prior and Informed Consent and Social Impact Assessments. And all plantations established before 2007 can now become certified, even though they have been grown on previous forest lands.
* RSPO has also failed to come up with appropriate standards for greenhouse gas emissions associated with plantation development and management. In addition, RSPO has failed to undertake a study on alternatives for the toxic pesticide paraquat used all to commonly in plantations.
* It will be possible for companies to expand with unsustainable large-scale monocultures, as long as there are no High Conservation Value Forest (HCVF) areas converted after 2007.
* The RSPO does not have any sanctions against violations of the criteria at the plantation level.
* There is no permanent monitoring body. Only when there is a written complaint a grievance panel is established to conduct investigative research and provide recommendations for action by the RSPO.
* The Grievance Panel is composed of Executive Board members who are stakeholders rather than mediators or arbiters. The capacity of NGOs and local communities to respond to failures of the RSPO would be crucial when there are environmental or social problems at a plantation. But their capacity is limited.
* RSPO will allow its certified palm oil to be traded through different chains of custody schemes, from “identify preserved” to “book and claim”. This means that RSPO certified palm oil will be mixed with palm oil from other sources, making it virtually impossible for a purchaser to be sure that the palm oil is not linked to rainforest destruction or any other environmental degradation and social conflict.
Ultimately, RSPO will be endorsing as sustainable the cultivation of vast areas of oil palm monocultures from recently converted natural forests, even where they encroach into local communities customary land and forests, isolating them into small enclaves. In effect, any forest is allowed to be converted into oil palm plantation under the process so long it is not defined as a High Conservation Value Forest (HCVF), despite the fact that such forests have regeneration potential or that communities claim customary rights over them.
*3. Impacts of oil palm on people and the environment *
Oil palm expansion occurs throughout the tropics at unprecedented rates. Asia is aiming for around 30 million hectares of palm monocultures (compared to approximately 12 million at present). There are also plans for large-scale expansions in Central and East Africa (for instance in Congo: 3 million hectares) and in Latin America (for instance in Columbia: 3.5 million hectares). The emergence of palm oil for the production of agrofuels (for transport and power generation) further promotes the expansion of the palm oil industry.
Expanding the area dedicated to palm oil plantations creates enormous problems that threaten biodiversity, forests, climate, the environment and communities.
Impacts on people
* Large areas of land are appropriated from communities by private corporations backed up by a lack of transparency, corruption and other unlawful activities in the licensing and development of oil palm plantations;
* Land prices increase due to the expansions resulting in land being unaffordable for most people;
* Large monocultures have adverse impacts on local natural water cycles and can cause severe pollution of water sources, increasing the likelihood of fires and floods and limiting the access to clean water for local communities;
* In many cases, oil palm monocultures are converted from logged over forests as a result of unsustainable logging practices that have earlier caused the depletion in timber resources. Such forests however still contain valuable resources to local communities who claim customary rights over them and with a proper conservation strategy is able to self-regenerate;
* A general failure to recognize and respect the right of indigenous and local peoples.
* Food sovereignty is undermined by occupying land that has been used to grow food for local consumption and diverting it to grow crops for export.
* Poor working and living conditions for plantations workers as well as small holders, and enormous vulnerability to price fluctuations.
* While the palm oil industry prides itself for providing employment and producing an important world commodity, far more people are likely to be adversely affected by its expansion, from indigenous and rural communities, plantation workers, smallholder farmers to other stakeholders who are confronted by environmental degradation, increases in food prices and the decline in their nation’s agricultural output, to name only a few.
Impacts on the environment
* Widespread deforestation is destroying biodiversity and pushing some species to the brink of extinction.
* Huge levels of greenhouse gas emissions are released from deforestation and draining of peatlands.
* Unsustainable monoculture farming leading to the destruction of biodiversity and pollution of the environment through the use of dangerous pesticides and other agrochemicals such as paraquat.
* Environmental undervaluation of forests and peat lands.
*4. Solutions advocated*
Friends of the Earth International (FOEI) is calling for wider policy mechanisms that control demand and encourage a more sustainable use of land that guarantees food sovereignty and the protection of natural resources. FOEI does not support the use of palm oil as a fuel and either transport or energy production. In addition FOEI calls for Governments to adopt concrete and consistent policies and legal reforms in order for them to address effectively the sustainability challenges of the oil palm industry.
Wider policy mechanisms that go beyond certification are needed that control demand, especially where it depends increasingly on resources based in developing countries, and encourages a more sustainable use of land that guarantees food sovereignty and the protection of natural resources.
Real solutions to the energy and climate crisis need to be introduced that reduce the demand for fuel such as a modal shift to public transport, cleaner cars and energy efficient electricity production and use. Palm oil as an energy or transport fuel must be banned.
Friends of the Earth International believes governments are key to creating the solutions and should be made accountable to adopt concrete and consistent policies and legal reforms in order for them to address effectively the sustainability challenges of the oil palm industry.
To that effect, we call for policies and laws to:
* Prevent expansions of oil palm plantations that involve forest conversions, violations of local community rights, affect food sovereignty and other forms of environmental degradations, human rights abuse and economic and social injustices;
* End poor governance through serious improvements in public accountability, transparency in decision-making and eliminate inconsistencies and contradictions in policy and law. Reform must be initiated in favour of environmental and social sustainability, including ensuring that rights of communities and labourers are well-protected;
* Ensure that full legal recognition is given to indigenous communities through policy and land reform initiatives which must be able to address concerns on reparative mechanisms;
* Ratify and nationally implement all existing international conventions, treaties, declarations and other international laws on indigenous peoples, biodiversity, forests, climates, labour and hazardous toxics ;
* Introduce strict laws on the use of pesticides and waste management;
* Reject incentives and targets that promote large scale agrofuel production as a solution to the climate change problem. Such incentives must instead be diverted to research and produce genuinely renewable, efficient and sustainable energy sources;
* Promote a sustainable agricultural policy that encourages environmentally-friendly farming practices, increases agricultural diversity and the consumption of local production instead for export. Increase government support for practises such as diversification of production and stimulation of local production for local markets that contribute to food security and food sovereignty in producer and consumer countries.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.
Abuse and humiliation of orangutans stopped?
Good news. From March 29 2010 the use of orangutans in circus-like shows in Malaysia has been officially banned. Let us know at once if you see anyone breaking this law....this animal park was caught doing so by Nature Alert.
SHAME ON MALAYSIA
The government owned Melaka Zoo forces this orangutan to take part in degrading and inhumane shows. Note the lack of hair on this orangutan's arms and lower body.
Information is power, when put to good use.
If you find what you see here to be interesting, do you think some of your friends might also like to know more about orangutans?
Please could you invite as many people as you can to visit this blog and subscribe to the news posts? As you can see and read, orangutans need all the help they can get.
Many thanks. Nature Alert
Nine years secured to a three metre chain. Imagine if you will.
"Mely" enjoying fruit supplied by COP and Nature Alert.
Waiting to be rescued
Under lock and chain for at least nine years.
How governments do deals which wreck environments, people and countries
Highly Recommended reading and available from Amazon
Chained up day and night.
But confiscated and rescued by COP in January 2010.
COP to the rescue
The final moments before being released forever from the heavy chain around its neck.
A helping hand
After maybe nine years of being confined to a wooden crate this orangutan is now on the way to a rescue centre and one day back to the forest.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
What changes the world for the better is the passion of certain individuals, not governments, not big organisations.
Highly Recommended Book
Available from Amazon and by far the best book ever written on orangutan conservation.
Hall of Shame for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the Palm Oil Industry.
Nothing can prepare one for the sight of the systematic extermination of orangutans by the government of Indonesia. Look at the photos and news articles on these pages in the context of a statement the President made to the media on 10th December 2007. “In the last 35 years about 50,000 orangutans are estimated to have been lost as their habitats shrank. If this continues, this majestic creature will likely face extinction by 2050,” President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said at the launch of an orangutan conservation plan at the climate talks in Bali. “The fate of the orangutan is a subject that goes to the heart of sustainable forests … To save the orangutan we have to save the forest.”
Statements like these are most welcome, but unless backed up by action, such words fall on deaf ears within the Ministry of Forestry....who are busy granting licences to cut down the very forests the President says they should protect!
Another palm oil victim - one of tens of thousands - so far.
For a close up of this brutally treated orangutan, please see below.
Mother shot and eaten. Baby beaten and tied to a pole.
The plight of a baby orangutan rescued from a palm oil plantation workers in Borneo has exposed the high price these endangered primates are paying for the production of palm oil. The 2-3 year old female was found hogtied to a pole and had clearly been brutally beaten. Covered in cuts and bruises, she was also severely dehydrated and emaciated after being starved for days or even weeks.
Palm oil kills - no doubt about it.
Villagers protest against palm oil companies.
Tropical forest, home to orangutans etc.
Threatened by palm oil companies.
Saved by COP
Mother murdered by palm oil company
Tortured by palm oil company employees
Rescued and treated by COP, this orangutan has since been released back into a forest.
Palm oil plantation victim
Orphaned by a palm oil company with help from the government of Indonesia.
Indonesia's Alcatraz for orangutans
A living hell for this orangutan.
Guilty of being an orangutan
A prisoner held by the Indonesian government
Shame on the Ministry of Forestry
A life behind bars. Why?
Day after day, 24/7 ..........
A magnificent male orangutan facing life imprisonment behind bars.
Kept prisoner in filth and squalor
Things just go from bad to worse
Solitary confinement .
There can be no excuse for treating an orangutan like this.
Welcome to Indonesia
Where orangutans are incarcerated by the government.
Has this orangutan lost the will to live?
Shame on Minister Kaban
Young orangutan in a 1.5 sq. metre cage 24 hours a day and tormented by zoo visitors.
What future do you think this orangutan has?
How much longer can the Indonesian government carry on abusing and killing orangutans?
Born in the wild.
Life behind bars - where the government of Indonesia prefers to see its orangutans.
Dying for help
With their mothers slaughtered these baby orangutans face a life of torment, torture and hunger, thanks to the government of Indonesia.
Torture chambers for orangutans at an Indonesian zoo
These orangutans have been kept like this for nine months. Until Nature Alert and COP protested the cages were left outside in all weathers.
Solitary confinement courtesy of Indonesian zoo
Caged like this 24/7 for nine months, with no end in sight.
When you think you are to busy to help, please could you reflect for a moment on .........
The following extract refers to environmental problems in general. I just hope you find it as thought provoking and relevant to orangutans as I have.
"This is such a shocking and unpalatable fact that most people deny it, or they just don't want to think about it. They believe as individuals, they can do little about it, so push it to the back of their minds. But I can't do that.
When something has to be done, we need to do it. It doesn't matter how big the challenge is or how hard the solution; if I know something is wrong, and I am in a position to help, I will do my best to make it right."Duncan Bannatyne, successful British businessman.
Formerly home to orangutans and other wildlife.
Part of the price we all pay for palm oil.
Can you see the rainforest?
No? That's the way the palm oil companies like to see things.
Begging for food - not for fun.
Reduced to begging for food, this orangutan (one of two) is in a unofficial zoo in West Kalimantan. Their enclosure has nothing but bare earth, no protection from a blisteringly hot sun, a concrete tube to shelter/sleep in and no fresh water to drink.
Bored and hungry - for as long as this orangutans lives
Born to be free. Imprisioned for life.
The COP Rapid Response Team
Their arrival in a remote village often generates a lot of interest. Please see July 2008 Blog page for more details..
Saved by COP
Please see July 2008 Blog page for more details.
Mother killed and her baby tied up like this for six months.
We found her at the home of a family who had bought her from her mothers killer. Please see photo immediately below - she is now safe, rescued by COP with the local Forestry Police.
Safe and sound - now
Saved by The Centre for Orangutan Protection and its sponsors/supporters.
Another palm oil victim
Rescued by COP and The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation
With its mother killed this orangutan's new owner keeps it chained up.
A baby orangutan with nowhere to go. A mother's love replaced with a chain.
How very, very sad.
What hope is there for this orangutan?
In this small crate there really is an orangutan.
Torture takes many different forms when it comes to dealing with orangutans.
Alone and abused.
Yes. There is an orangutan in this cage.
Chained to, rather than living in a tree.
There's no escape.
At a West Borneo amusement park.
Look at the rubbish this orangutan has to live with.
Escape is not an option.
same as picture below.
Yet another victim of logging and/or palm oil.
Alone, malnourished and very sad in a transit centre.
Palm oil companies take everything.
Imagine; this was once a rainforest.
Five adult orangutans are crammed into this dark, featureless cage in a zoo. All five began life in the wild.
Orphaned by loggers or palm oil companies - often the same thing.
Missing its mother. Look at her eyes and you have to wonder what she is thinking don't you? STOP PRESS this baby has since died.
A little light refreshment goes a long way.
Water melon was always a firm favourite of the orangutans. In all the differnt locations we never once saw fresh drinking water provided.
A Tasty treat
Everywhere we went we took lots of different fresh fruit to give to the hungry orangutans we always discovered in various locations.
Same location as above.
We provided food and some small branches, and they loved both.
Again, the same location
We hope we made him a little happier than he appears. The lives of these two orangutans must be almost unbearable. We hope to arrange their transfer to a rescue centre soon.
West Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo)
Two young orangutans kept at an amusement park. They were wild born. Mothers killed by loggers.
Rescued last year and now at a rehab. centre with an uncertain future.
This baby saw her mother being killed and eaten.
The torture of orangutans is seemingly never ending.
With its left arm chained and padlocked to its neck, this orangutan is literally being tortured at an amusement park in West Kalimantan (Borneo)
Awaiting rescue from what was once its home.
With nowhere left to run, this tranquillized orangutan was rescued and moved to another forest.
Apocalypse now - Indonesian style with help from Malaysian companies.
Rescuers looking for orangutans made homeless by a palm oil company. Virgin rainforest recently stood where there is nothing but a few small trees remaining, which by now will also have been cleared away. Nov. 2007
Yet another palm oil victim
With its mother killed, this baby with an injured eye was caged by workers until rescued by WWF Indonesia.
Illegal loggers in action. October 2007
Access to log these trees illegally was gained via a palm oil plantation road. This forest is home to 50 orangutans and palm oil companies want to log it.
The road to ruin - Indonesia style.
Where once stood a magnificent rainforest full of wildlife.
Mother and baby orangutan.
Oil palm companies have killed thousands like these two.
Palm oil victim. Mother killed.
This baby will have seen its mother slain.
Nothing, absolutely nothing, left of the forest, except for its soil.
It's all about money, greed and corruption.
Destruction and desolation as far as the eye can see
So much for Borneo's rainforests - look what palm oil companies have done to them.
They can barely cut down and remove the trees quick enough for their liking.
Palm oil companies destroy rainforests.
Freshly cut trees
These trees could end up as garden furniture in your local store.
Not a tree in sight - courtesy of oil palm companies.
Oil palm plants growing where rainforest once stood.