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NGOs admit oil palm not main cause of deforestation

Thursday, 19 January 2017

KUCHING: Beef and soya bean industries are the main culprits for more forest disappearing internationally and not palm oil as often claimed.

Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners Association (Soppoa) in a statement yesterday said international scientific communities were now being rightly informed of the latest findings with regards to these two industries as the main drivers of deforestation.

It cited a Dec 14, 2016 posting by Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) member and scientific advisor for Climate and Energy Doug Boucher, who clearly admitted that oil palm plantations had been wrongly targeted over the years for deforestation.

“In fact, based on a scientific study conducted by Climate Focus 2016 (http://climatefocus.com), ‘the biggest driver of deforestation is beef. Soy is second … and palm oil and wood products are even smaller drivers, causing only about a tenth as much deforestation as beef’,” said the statement.

It added that the Climate Focus study pointed out that palm oil companies have made significantly bigger commitments to zero deforestation than any other commodity group, despite being a much lower contributor to deforestation.

“About 59 per cent of oil palm plantation corporations have pledged to eliminate deforestation as compared to soy (21 per cent) and beef (12 per cent) respectively according to the study by Climate Focus.

“What this means is that oil palm growers are placing huge importance in targeting to achieve an end to deforestation from the production of agricultural commodities by 2020 as one of the goals under the New York Declaration on Forests launched at the September 2014 Climate Summit.”

The statement also noted that UCS had stated that it also regretted ‘pushing’ companies related to oil palm growing based on data received (like ‘palm oil was growing rapidly in terms of global consumption’) as well as emotional ones (‘orangutans, which are threatened by the expansion of oil palm plantations, are incredibly cute and charismatic’) which were more for “strategic reasons than based on sound scientific data”.

“Based on the current scientific data compiled by Climate Focus, it was evident that ‘beef is by far the biggest driver of deforestation in the Amazon, and soya is the second’. What is more telling is when Boucher admitted that ‘when we (scientists) get the priorities wrong, there are consequences’. These include failing to accurately report on the real culprits of deforestation internationally and getting corporate pledges to end deforestation that it’s causing.

“The international scientific communities are now realising that oil palm growers are playing a responsible role in minimising deforestation and working towards sustainable agricultural practices.”

(Taken from The Borneo Post)