Deforestation & Palm Oil

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EPOA fully recognizes the problem of deforestation. Over the past years, the palm oil industry has introduced different measures to fight deforestation in production areas. Palm oil is one of the many drivers of deforestation. It is, therefore, key to delink the supply chain from deforestation. Find out below more about the relation between palm oil and deforestation.

The relation between palm oil and deforestation

Zooming into the role of palm oil in forest loss, FAO data shows, that palm oil has contributed to an estimated 5% of tropical deforestation in tropical areas. When looking at global deforestation, palm oil contributes to 2.3% of global deforestation (The European Commission). A part of this expansion has taken place on land that was previously used for growing other crops like coffee or rubber (The European Commission).

deforestation infographic

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Politico palm oil deforestation

Why a slowing trend?

This decline is, according to the WWF and WRI, the result of strengthened law enforcement, moratoria, certification of palm oil plantations and corporate zero-deforestation commitments. Government initiatives in Indonesia and Malaysia introduced in the past years to combat deforestation, such as a permanent moratorium on primary forests and peatland conversion or stricter forest laws.

In addition, corporate actions such as the No Deforestation, No Peat and No Exploitation commitments (NDPE) have been introduced on an increasing scale by the palm oil industry. Likewise, CRR also notes the implementation of NDPE policies and adds COVID-19 related restrictions as possible factors behind this decline in recent years. Finally, certification standards as the RSPO do now include a ban on any deforestation or peat clearing.

Challenges ahead

While deforestation from large scale plantations is declining, deforestation from small scale farmers is increasing. It is crucial to accelerate this slowing trend in industrial plantations and eliminate deforestation. In addition, as outlined by a recent study of the WWF, remaining deforestation in Indonesian Borneo is also associated with pressure from smallholders that do not have zero-deforestation commitments or other voluntary commitments. It is therefore key to ensure that small scale farmers can engage in corporate and government actions to combat deforestation. For more than 3 million small farmers worldwide,  palm oil is an important income source. Increasing the socioeconomic benefits while deforestation is key,  for example by providing trainings to increase their yield and productivity.

Source: Austin et al. (2019): What causes deforestation in Indonesia?

Toward deforestation-free palm oil

EPOA supports action from governments, companies and NGO’s to fight deforestation. We need further action to accelerate the progress made over the years. Are you interested to learn more about our position in light of the EC communication ‘Stepping up EU Action to Protect and Restore the World’s Forests’?

Read our position here

Interested to learn more?

Over the past years, a number of research have been performed to discover the relation between palm oil and deforestation:

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