Personal note: You can be sure the Indonesian palm oil people are introducing their own system (as opposed to complying with the RSPO) because it will be easier for them to comply with and impossible to independently regulate.
*Two highlights below look promising, but given existing laws are rarely ever enforced, what chance is there for any new ones. Tens of thousands of orangutans have (so far) been slaughtered with not one person prosecuted.
Lastly, based on my experience, I suggest you pay no attention to what the EU Ambassador says at the end of this article.
Little Ground Broken In New Palm Oil Rules
The government on Friday responded to rising international pressure on the country’s palm oil producers by implementing a new certification system for environmental sustainability in the production of crude palm oil.
However, the new standards are unlikely to change the belief among environmental groups that the palm oil producers are contributing to deforestation and global warming, with Greenpeace immediately dismissing the system as a repackaging of the country’s existing laws on palm oil production.
Bustar Maitar, team leader for forests at Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said he was disappointed, especially because the market, including retail consumers, is eager to see improved criteria to ensure sustainability in palm oil production.
“I don’t see anything new or improved in the ISPO. It’s only a collection of existing regulations and laws,” Bustar said.
The certification system, called Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil, is mandatory for all palm oil producers. Much of its primary environmental criteria is a duplication of existing regulations. It will prohibit, for example, the use of peatland deeper than three meters, in line with a regulation issued in 2009.
*It also prohibits the burning of forests for the purpose of clearing for plantations, in line with a 2004 law, with those found guilty of breaching the regulations facing a maximum fine of Rp 10 billion ($1.1 million) and a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.
*Those found guilty of destroying endangered species, such as the orangutan, living near plantations will face fines of Rp 200 million and up to 10 years in prison. The measures take effect on Jan. 1, 2011.
“The ISPO is intended to ensure that Indonesia is promoting the development of palm oil in a sustainable way. It will become mandatory and legally binding for all in the palm oil business,” Deputy Agriculture Minister Bayu Krisnamurthi said.
The ISPO initiative follows a two-year moratorium on the clearing of primary forests and peatlands agreed to last month by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as part of a $1 billion deal with Norway intended to fight climate change.
The government has said that under the agreement, palm oil producers would not be allowed to clear primary forests or peatlands for palm plantation. The moratorium supersedes the ISPO standards in some cases, such as the use of peatland.
The nation’s palm oil producers have come under heavy attack over the past year. Environmentalists say the growth of palm oil plantations contributes to deforestation and increases emissions of greenhouse gases. These claims are being taken increasingly seriously by international palm oil buyers.
Global consumer products giant Unilever suspended purchases from major palm oil producer the Sinar Mas Group in December, after Greenpeace alleged it was devastating rainforests and habitats for endangered species. Nestle followed suit in March.
Based on data issued by the Trade Ministry, the export value of crude palm oil products to countries in the European Union in 2009 was worth $2.26 billion.
Julian Wilson, the EU ambassador for Indonesia and Brunei, told the Jakarta Globe that Europe welcomed Indonesia’s steps to create its own criteria for palm oil sustainability, since it shows the country’s willingness to get serious in the fight against deforestation and carbon emissions. He said the European Union was ready to discuss the new standards with Indonesian officials.
“It sounds like a positive advance, especially if it’s legally binding,” Wilson said.
He said large palm oil buyers were increasingly wanting to make sure that the palm oil they were buying was sustainably produced.
“Producers have to be able to comply with their consumers’ requests,” Wilson said.