(See Greenpeace blog for original photos)
Fires have been raging across Indonesia in recent weeks. We don't know exactly who started them, but we know that palm oil and paper companies have created the perfect conditions for them to flourish. Peatland is normally waterlogged and therefore very hard to ignite. But these companies have been draining Sumatra's peatlands to make way for plantations. When dry, peat is a perfect fuel and very hard to extinguish. But the destruction of habitat for endangered species, human harm and massive release of carbon dioxide caused by these fires is only the latest stage in the ongoing forest devastation by palm oil companies.
There are three campaigns that need support right now - take action today:
More about palm oil and deforestation
Palm oil plantations are the main driver for deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia, which account for 86 percent of global production of palm oil. Palm oil is found in many food products, toiletries and cosmetics. It is also burned as a fuel - for transport and for electricity generation.
The rainforests and peatlands of Indonesia and other tropical countries hold tremendous terrestrial carbon stocks, which are lost to the atmosphere when land is cleared to make way for oil palm plantations. This deforestation has made Indonesia the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China. Burning palm oil causes more greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuels once the direct and indirect impacts on forests and peatlands are taken into account. The plantations also threaten species such as the orang utan with extinction and have been linked to forced displacement and human rights violations.
Map of deforestation on Borneo (Indonesia and Malaysia) 1950-2005 and projection towards 2020
Video on the devastation of Sumatra's rainforest.
EU law says that by 2020, renewable energy must fuel 10% of the transport sector. Biofuel counts towards that requirement if it produces a 35% emissions saving over fossil fuels, or 50% from 2017 onwards; so far, most of that fuel has come from food crops. The problem is that at the moment emissions from indirect land use changes (ILUC) are not included. When agricultural land is used to plant biofuel crops, fresh land may be ploughed up to accommodate the existing crops that have been edged out. Ultimately, that may drive clearing of forests, peatlands and wetlands rich in sequestered carbon — causing large emissions of carbon dioxide. Read more.
New proposals are that these indirect land use changes be taken into account in calculating emissions and that food-crop fuel quotas be capped at only 5% of transport fuel by 2020. There has been very strong lobbying against the proposals and the Energy Committee has already voted to weaken them. There is a crucial vote on 10 July in the Environment Committee. Write to your MEPs now. It is particularly important to write to MEPs who are on the committee (see list below) and if you can do so in your own words, this will have more impact.
MEPs on the ENVI Committee (Environment, Public Health and Food Safety):
A new local group is campaigning to prevent the proposed use of bioliquids, probably palm oil, to light and heat the massive new development planned for the Battersea Power Station site in London. The new owners of the site include Sime Darby one of the world’s largest and most contentious palm oil companies. It owns vast plantations across Borneo in areas that used to be pristine forest, and is expanding not just in Borneo but also in Liberia, taking lands without any consultation with local communities.
There is a public meeting on 10 July at local pub, the Bread and Roses, SW4 6DZ - see Facebook event page for more details.
In Cameroon, a US-based agri-corporation, Herakles Farms, is involved in a land deal that is about to destroy over 70,000 hectares (300 square miles) of rainforest. This plantation will have major impacts on up to 45,000 people who are dependent on the forest for their livelihoods. If the project goes forward, farmland and forest will be replaced by a giant palm oil plantation. Read more here and here.