When major brands like Nestlé or Unilever make ‘Zero Deforestation’ commitments, consumers may feel reassured that the products they buy in supermarkets have not contributed to tropical deforestation. But it’s easier to make the pledge than prove it is done.
Bangkok: Major palm oil producers and environmental NGOs announced today their agreement on a method to decide which forests must be conserved for companies to uphold their ‘no deforestation’ commitments. Forest Peoples Programme, which has been engaging closely in the process (links), welcomed the outcome.
Communities in Liberia have spoken to palm oil sector representatives about ongoing land tenure issues and participation of peoples in future plans for their customary lands.
Sixteen representatives from across Liberia attended the 2nd Annual Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 (TFA) National Dialogue to talk about the future of both their lands and large-scale agricultural developments in the country.
In response to consumer pressure to eliminate deforestation from products on supermarket shelves, corporations have been making numerous ‘Zero Deforestation’ pledges, often accompanied by ‘Zero Exploitation’ commitments. These companies seek to ensure that products in their ‘supply chains’ do not ‘embody deforestation’ and are not linked to land grabs and abuse of human and labour rights. These commitments are welcome but raise numerous questions: what do they require in practice and how can companies’ performance be verified?
Global calls to curb forest loss have taken on an added urgency in the light of renewed efforts to combat climate change. The statistics are clear: rapid land use change is a significant cause of emissions of global warming gases. In some tropical forest counties, like Indonesia, land clearance for oil palm and pulpwood plantations is causing massive emissions from trashed forests and drained peat-swamps. Per capita emissions from Indonesia rival those of many developed countries. So it makes sense to slow down forest loss.
Eco-business published an exclusive article jointly written by FPP, Greenpeace, RAN and WWF, on the NGOs’ thinking on protecting high carbon stock (HCS) forests. They indicated that despite commitments by some companies to protect these forests, challenges still remain, namely the definition of HCS. They discussed the two main groups and initiatives underway, namely the HCS Approach Steering Group and the HCS Study initiated by the Sustainable Palm Oil Manifesto (SPOM) group, in determining the “HCS Approach”.
Palm oil companies have long been criticised for their damaging clearance, of both forests and peatlands, which contributes significantly to global warming. It is estimated that Indonesia, where deforestation is still increasing despite Presidential promises to halt it, is the world’s third highest emitter of green house gases. This is mainly due to large scale land clearance for palm oil plantations, pulp and paper ventures and transmigration. Considering the ineffectiveness of Government efforts, getting companies to set aside forest and peatland areas within their concessions seems like a sensible way to limit the problem. But, given that most concessions are handed out by governments without first recognising and securing the lands of local communities,what are the implications of these set-asides for the rights and livelihoods of forest peoples?
The production of palm oil has come under sustained criticism for its destruction of forests, biodiversity and wider environmental values. More lately, the industry has also been targeted to prevent the massive greenhouse gas emissions from its forest clearance and from drainage and planting on peatlands. Under pressure from local and international campaigning groups, the palm oil giant Golden Agri Resources has adopted a new Forest Conservation Policy that promises no clearance of tall forests and no planting on peat. What are the implications of this new policy for forest peoples?
Recognition of the social and environmental impacts of large-scale land conversion to monoculture plantations such as oil palm has led to numerous voluntary sustainability standards, including the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), to adopt the concept of High Conservation Values (HCVs). These are defined as the critical social and environmental values in ecosystems and landscapes that long-term multi-stakeholder processes have collectively identified as the key values to be conserved and enhanced in the management of natural systems.
Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) is coming under intensifying scrutiny over its renewed promises to bring its giant mills and supply chains into compliance with best practice norms for sustainability and its new promises that it will respect the rights of local communities and indigenous peoples. Recently, Marcus Colchester, as Co-Chair of the High Conservation Values Resource Network and Director of FPP, and Patrick Anderson, FPP's Policy Advisor in Indonesia, met with APP's Head of Sustainability, Aida Greenbury, and her team of advisers and consultants, to clarify the company's commitments.
Companies in Indonesia have been allegedly clearing designated 'High Conservation Value (HCV) areas', rather than managing them appropriately in order to maintain or enhance the identified values of the area. HCV areas include areas important for communities' livelihoods, identities and environmental services.