Unilever is to partner with U.S. tech company Orbital Insight on a pilot project to trace agricultural commodities sourced, especially palm oil. It claims to be using geolocation data and satellite imagery to identify the individual farms and plantations supplying the palm oil mills in its extended supply chain. The pilot project will be tested out at palm oils mills in Indonesia and soy mills in Brazil, working jointly with its established supply chain monitoring projects.
Collected news links from external sources related to topics concerning the Book Chain Project.
Around 150 Yong’an residents are suing the local government and its partner forest management company, Guangxi Lee & Man Forestry Technology Ltd, for violating a clause in contract law where a business must not damage public interests. Villagers claim the eucalyptus, a thirsty plantation species, is draining the local water supply from three mountain springs, leaving very little for farming and domestic use in the village. This is the first case of this kind in China.
Palm oil producers and environmental activists alike have expressed dismay at a move by European officials to phase out palm-oil based biofuel by 2030. Officials in Indonesia and Malaysia - who together produce 85% of palm oil globally - say the move is discriminatory and have vowed a vigorous response, including lobbying EU member states, bringing the matter before the World Trade Organisation, and imposing retaliatory measures on EU goods.
Environmental activists, on the other hand, say the policy does not go far enough leaving loopholes allowing palm oil to be treated as a renewable fuel, allowing continued expansion of palm plantations into peat forests. They also criticize the policy’s failure to label soybean oil as high risk, with growing evidence that soy cultivation may have greater deforestation risks than palm oil.
The Forest Trust have released a short video on their Respect programme which aims to address human rights issues in agricultural supply chains. It discusses some of the issues on plantations in Indonesia and in the manufacturing sector in China, and the worker-focused solutions they are implementing to tackle them.
Motion 7 passed at the FSC General Assembly meeting in Vancouver on 13 October, indicating that the organization will pursue a change to its rules allowing companies that have converted forests to plantations since 1994 to go for certification, which is not allowed under current rule. Proponents of a rule change say it would allow more companies to be held to FSC standards and could result in the restoration or conservation of ‘millions of hectares’ in compensation for recent deforestation. Opponents argue that FSC is bending to industry demands and that a rule change will increase the pressure for land conversion on communities and biodiversity.
British fast food restaurants and grocery chains, including Tesco, Morrisons and McDonald’s, buy their chicken from Cargill, which feeds its poultry with imported soy, much of it apparently coming from the Bolivian Amazon and Brazilian Cerrado — areas rapidly being deforested for new soy plantations. Retailers have so far not used their leverage over Cargill to compel it to support a soy moratorium expansion.
Plantation firms like Asia Pulp & Paper and Toba Pulp Lestari have a history land tenure issues, but more recently they have pledged to eliminate the practice from their supply chains. Some conflicts, however, remain unaddressed and a new online platform launched by the Rainforest Action Network shows that communities are still feeling the effects of losing traditional forests to make way for plantations.
One subsidiary of Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (April), Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (Rapp), has constructed a 3km canal through thick peatland on the island of Pedang, Indonesia, which has led to the suspension of their partnership with WWF and Greenpeace. The canal is built for draining peatland for pulp plantations, which is against both the company’s sustainability standards, and also government regulations. However, the president and director of Rapp insisted the action is legal based on a plan approved by the Indonesian government back in 2013, which was before the catastrophic fires of 2015.
A new research published by the journal Conservation Letters studies the industrial palm oil plantations and regional greenhouse gas emissions levels. The paper summarizes the results of a case study focused on an oil palm operation in Gabon, and suggests that tropical African countries could largely offset the emissions created by converting the land to palm oil plantations if they enact mandatory policies regulation which forests can be cleared and how much remaining forest must be set aside for conservation. If those mandatory measures are lack, unsustainable levels of climate-warming carbon emissions could be created by converting Africa’s tropical forests into monoculture palm plantations.
"Zero deforestation” champion creates new risks for Indonesia’s forests and carbon-rich peatlands with mega-scale pulp mill
A recent study released by 12 international and Indonesian NGOs reveal that Asia Pulp &Paper (APP) is building one of the world’s largest pulp mills without a sustainable wood supply in South Sumatra. This analysis indicates that the current planted area owned by APP is insufficient in supporting this new mill as well as the 2 existing mills. This report suggests that APP may fail to meet its ‘zero deforestation commitments’ made in 2013 which included ‘100% sustainable plantation wood for pulp’.
The World Resources Institute released a new study, which finds that nearly all of the recent tree cover loss in several “frontiers of plantation expansion” is happening outside established plantation boundaries. The author hopes that the study can help in land-use planning that directs plantation development and expansion to already-degraded areas rather than supplanting forests.
A new study published on the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences states that the role of agriculture in the destruction of mangrove forests in South-East Asia has been underestimated. The study is based on a 12-year assessment conducted between 2000 and 2012, which found that in South-East Asia mangroves were being lost at an average rate of 0.18%. Rice and palm oil plantations contributed nearly 40% to the lost. The author is calling for action as mangrove habitats in South-East Asia are highly biodiverse and are vital to the livelihood or millions of people.
Regarding the choking haze in Indonesia, 23 companies have been punished by Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya, while over 33 plantation companies are being investigated. The Singaporean government said it plans to take action against firms linked to haze-causing fires.
A study published in August in the journal Environmental Research Letters reveals that more than half of the fire emissions originate from outside timber and oil-palm concession boundaries. Several studies have shown a similar finding, which is that the dominant cause of fire in both Sumatra and Kalimantan is rural communities. Only targeting plantation companies as the government and NGOs are doing at the moment won’t work. The Indonesian fire and haze problem is complex, with multiple actors playing a role. To address the problem, the government should be more specific in its management, including law enforcement, localized approaches, taking the costs of development into consideration.
Drones are increasingly being used in the fight against deforestation and illegal land clearing in some counties, including Indonesia and Malaysia. Palm oil trader Cargill has begun using drones to monitor fires near to its plantations and plan to use drones to identify protected forests. It is thought that local law enforcement agencies in Indonesia might also turn to drones as they currently rely on satellite imagery to identify hotspots but can often encounter delays in receiving information and poor resolution of images.
After the launch of an environmental campaign targeting the luxury hotel chain, Mandarin Oriental hotel, the palm oil giant Astra Argo Lestari, which is also one of Indonesia’s biggest plantation developers, announced an immediate moratorium on land clearing. Astra Argo claimed the moratorium as a major step to make their operations to comply with the standards of the Indonesia Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP). Astra Agro haven’t announced a no-deforestation policy, but it said that it was now in the process of formulating one.
A toolkit, named the HCS Approach, has been developed by a group of organisations with the aim of identifying High Carbon Stock (HCS) forests. The toolkit was endorsed last week by major NGOs and plantation companies in Singapore including Golden Agri Resources, APP, Wilmar, Greenpeace, WWF, RAN, Unilever and The Forest Trust. The toolkit is seen as a crucial element in developing sustainable plantations and the companies involved will now begin the steps towards implementation in the field. HCS sits alongside HCV
Despite government plans to eradicate illegal logging that have been in place over the past five years, encroachment on the country’s forests remains rampant, a recent report says. The report, released by a number of NGOs grouped under the Coalition against Forestry Mafia and the Washington-based Forest Trends, said that more than 30 percent of the timber used by the country’s industrial forest sector could be considered illegal. According to the report, while the source of this illegal wood was unclear, it was likely from trees harvested during the clear-cutting of natural forests from new oil, palm and pulp plantations. In order to meet the demands from the industrial forestry industry, the government had pledged to boost the number of industrial forestry plantations as the primary source of legal wood in Indonesia. The plantations produce fast-growing species of trees like acacia. However, the report found that the plantation sector was dramatically underperforming. In 2007, the forestry ministry predicted that by 2014, plantations would be producing at almost twice the rate reportedly achieved.
The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has been documenting and exposing the illicit trade in stolen timber in Indonesia for more than 15 years. According to a new EIA report, it’s all a huge illusion that Indonesia appears to bring rainforest logging under control. Traditional logging has been replaced by the mass clearance of rainforest for oil palm plantations, creating massive supplies of hugely profitable but often illegal timber. And lurking beneath the surface is a pervasive network of criminality and corruption. NGOs and progressive government figures have emphasised the need to look beyond sectoral legislation and to corruption laws in order to address this.
1. Zero deforestation commitments. 2015 may be the year that many of the zero deforestation commitments are actually implemented.
2. Joko Widodo’s forest commitments. As Indonesia’s new president takes on the challenge of reforming the forestry sector, look out for greater scrutiny of concession licensees, as well as a crack-down on forestry-related corruption.
3. The Brazilian Amazon. There are concerns that Brazil’s current downward deforestation trajectory may not last.
4. Will Paris product a binding climate framework? Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation is expected to have a central role in the climate talks in Paris at the end of the year.
5. Where are the new deforestation hotspots? Data from the WRI suggests that deforestation may be rising in several countries, including Cote d’Ivoire, DRC, Ecuador and Ghana amongst others. 2015 will also uncover new studies and tools that will help better quantify change in forest cover.
6. Falling commodity prices. Lower prices reduce the profitability of converting rainforests for palm oil plantations. On the other hand, companies may be less likely to adopt environmental measures if they have less cash on hand.
7. Myanmar. As Myanmar opens up further to foreign investors, concerns about the fate of the country’s forests will rise.
8. Dams in the Amazon. Indigenous groups and environmentalists are ready to fight against Brazil’s hydro projects in the Tapajos basin.
9. RSPO and zero deforestation. If the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) does move towards zero deforestation it has a critical tool in place to do so: last year members were required to submit the GPS coordinates of their concessions.
10. Jurisdictional initiatives. Sub-national efforts to develop forest-friendly policies and initiatives will move forward in 2015.