The world’s five biggest growers of palm oil have announced a halt to deforestation while a study takes place.
The 12-month high carbon stock (HCS) study aims to provide “reliable information on greenhouse gas emissions and socio-economic considerations to guide decisions on land conversion to oil palm plantations”.
The growers, comprising Asian Agri, IOI Corporation Berhad, Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad, Musim Mas Group and Sime Darby Plantation, have all signed up to the Sustainable Palm Oil Manifesto, which included establishing the HCS study.
The steering committee overseeing the study is led by environmentalist Sir Jonathon Porritt and forest ecologist John Raison.
Raison said: “This study is both well-resourced and fully independent, with all findings to be publicly available. It will extend earlier HCS work to provide more reliable estimates of greenhouse gas emissions from both biomass and soils resulting from the establishment as well as ongoing management of palm oil plantations.”
The study is being funded by the growers and the firms Wilmar International, Cargill and Unilever. In a separate development Cargill has announced it has become a member of The Forest Trust.
In a blog Greenpeace said: “This sounds like good news for the forests: a year’s respite from the bulldozers. But there are questions that still need answering. Will they keep their promise? What happens after the review is over? And will this cover the palm oil that they buy from other people?
“Still, this is a significant announcement. It shows that the palm oil industry is open to change and looking for practical ways to operate without destroying forests.”
Meanwhile, the UK government has announced £60 million of funding for a programme to encourage businesses to manage forests sustainably and a further £84 million to support EU efforts to combat illegal logging.
International development secretary Justine Greening, speaking at Forest and Climate Challenge conference at the UN in New York on Monday, said: “Investing in the better management of natural resources and putting a stop to deforestation is the smart thing to do. British businesses are already leading the way in setting up long-term sustainable supply chains.”