Jakarta, 10 February 2019 – The re-release of the IUCN report last week, supported by the Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs, highlights several important points related to the relevance of the report to Indonesia, which for decades has prioritized palm oil production.

The 4th February press release from the Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs, Darmin Nasution, claims that palm oil is better for wildlife and biodiversity compared to other vegetable oils as it uses less land.1 However, the government’s attention should be more focused on other important points contained in the report, which was first released in June 2018.

First, the report also states that palm oil is responsible for the massive destruction of natural forests – the habitat of endangered species such as Sumatran tigers, Sumatran and Bornean orangutans and elephants, all of which are on the IUCN red list. In Kalimantan alone, 50 percent of deforestation between 2005-2015 was triggered by palm oil.2Second, the report highlights the importance of stopping deforestation and preventing the expansion of palm oil plantations into natural forest areas because of the negative impact on biodiversity. Instead of focusing on expansion, the government and the palm oil growers need to focus on intensification and employment of best sustainability practices to increase crop yields. The government also needs to implement stronger standardization criteria for sustainable palm oil, such as tracing and tracking, a more robust deforestation monitoring system, and reporting and verification. The government could quickly take the first step towards this by disclosing concession data to improve transparency and accountability.

“We do not deny that oil palm is one of the most efficient crops in terms of the land area needed. The problem is that historically, palm oil has been produced by clearing millions of hectares of natural forest and carbon-rich peatland. In addition, there are other problems in the form of inefficient and polluting production methods, including the use of large amounts of chemical fertilizers,” said Indah Fatinaware, Executive Director of Sawit Watch, a member of the NGO Coalition on Palm Oil.

“No one wants to ban palm oil. Palm oil can be good for Indonesia, but only if there are substantial improvements in forest governance and if the sustainability of production can truly be verified”, added Indah.

The Coordinating Minister of Economic Affairs press release may have been timed to coincide with the European Union’s vote on whether it will advance the phase-out date for the use of palm oil in biofuels from 2030 to 2023. Minister Darmin Nasution should take IUCN’s recommendations seriously and apply them as soon as possible to ensure The EU and other large export markets that Indonesia is truly committed to producing verifiably sustainable palm oil. In addition to prioritizing environmental protection and human rights, this would also benefit the economy.

The government’s promotion of palm biodiesel for domestic consumption, and the resultant increase in demand for the commodity, risks a return to the very high deforestation levels caused in previous years. The Government has already taken some positive steps to address poor forest governance, for example, moratorium on primary forest and peatland, palm oil moratorium, and peatland restoration, but it needs to redouble its efforts. These policies must be strengthened because palm oil expansion is still being permitted in pristine forests,  as evidenced by the recent case of forest area release for PT Hardaya Inti Plantation in Buol, Central Sulawesi.

“It is of crucial importance now that our country fundamentally improves its forest and plantation governance and quickly improves the sustainability of palm oil production. The government must strongly implement the palm oil moratorium, strengthen the ISPO standard, and prioritize the CPO fund (BPDPKS)to support smallholders in employing the best practice production methods, to strengthen the verifiability that Indonesian palm oil can be truly sustainable,” concluded Muhammad Teguh Surya, Executive Director of the Madani Foundation.

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Notes for Editors:

(1)  See: https://www.ekon.go.id/berita/pdf/studi-iucn-kelapa-sawit.4578.pdf/

(2)  One of the authors of the IUCN report, Eric Meijaard, emphasized the negative impact of palm oil production in Indonesia, “Africa may appear to be vast and borderless as a location for planting oil palm in the future, but Kalimantan and Sumatra used to be the same. It’s possible to manage oil palm better. “See: Palm Oil Paradox: Sustainable Solutions to Save the Great Apes, https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2016/11/report-conservationists-palm-oil-industry-collaborative-on-protecting-great-apes-fragile-ecosystems/ November 10, 2016

Contacts:

  1. Indah Fatinaware, Executive Director of Sawit Watch, +62811-448-677,inda@sawitwatch.or.id
  2. Muhammad Teguh Surya, Executive Director of Yayasan Madani Berkelanjutan, +62819-1519-1979, teguh.surya@madaniberkelanjutan.id
  3. Luluk Uliyah, Senior Communication Officer of Yayasan Madani Berkelanjutan, +62815-1986-8887,luluk@madaniberkelanjutan.id

Supported by:

  1. Sawit Watch
  2. Yayasan Madani Berkelanjutan
  3. Kaoem Telapak
  4. Elsam
  5. Greenpeace Indonesia
  6. Forest Watch Indonesia
  7. Indonesian Center for Environmental Law
  8. BYTRA Aceh