COP23: Leaders vie for protection of ‘incredibly important’ African peatland [11/17/2017]
- The presence of the world’s biggest tropical peatland was recently confirmed in Central Africa. It is the size of England and straddles the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Congo (ROC). - However, conservationists and scientists worry it may be at risk from logging and development. They caution its destruction could release “vast amounts” of carbon emissions. Others say the threats are overblown. - Conservation leaders and representatives gathered this week at COP23 in Bonn, Germany, say protections could exist through REDD+ projects that could give local communities management rights and provide financial incentives for leaving the peat forest intact.
More big mammals found in high-carbon forests, says new study [11/15/2017]
- The researchers used satellite data to measure forest carbon values and camera trap photographs to tally the mammal species present in forests and oil palm plantations. - Finer-scale data did reveal that high-carbon areas do support more species of medium and large mammals that are threatened with extinction. - Experts say that this research validates the high carbon stock approach for identifying priority areas for conservation. - Still, further research is required to better understand the role of connectivity between high-carbon forests in supporting biodiversity.
‘Much deeper than we expected’: Huge peatland offers up more surprises [11/09/2017]
- Scientists recently discovered the world’s biggest tropical peatland in the Congo Basin rainforest of Central Africa. The peatland straddles the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo. - Roughly the size of England, the massive peatland is estimated to contain more than 30 billion metric tons of carbon — equivalent to three years of global fossil fuel emissions. - When the scientists went back to investigate the peatland further, they discovered the peat along its edges is deeper than they thought. This means it may contain more peat — and, thus, more carbon — than they originally thought. - The scientists are racing to learn more about the peatland as loggers move to fell and drain the forests above it to make way for roads and developments like palm oil plantations. Meanwhile, local communities are hoping for greater protection of the region as government officials try to drum up more support for conservation initiatives at this week’s UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany.
Sumatran region heats up as forests disappear [10/29/2017]
- Average temperatures in the Indonesian province of Jambi have risen amid clearing of vast swaths of forest, a new study show. - Areas that have been clear-cut, mostly for oil palm plantations, can be up to 10 degrees Celsius hotter than forested areas. - The warming could make water more scarce and wildfires more common in the province.
Palm oil mounts ‘new offensive’ in Colombia while workers decry labor conditions [10/27/2017]
- Demobilization of the FARC and other militant groups are opening vast areas of Colombia to new development. - Colombia is Latin America’s biggest palm oil producer. Researchers expect the industry will be expanding into these new territories, and are worried about how Colombia’s native ecosystems will fare against new oil palm plantations and how communities will be treated by the industry. - Advocacy organizations say Colombia is facing a grave security crisis for human rights defenders, unionists, community activists, and indigenous and Afro-Colombian leaders, with more than 120 social leaders reportedly killed so far in 2017. - Mongabay traveled to Magdalena Medio to talk with oil palm plantation workers; they reported dangerous working conditions and deadly retribution from anti-union organizers.
Economic headwinds buffet once-resilient Sumatran forest-farms [10/23/2017]
- Farmers in Indonesia’s Krui region have long cultivated valuable damar resin trees among typical crops such as coconuts and rice. - These agroforests have for more than a century served as an economic bulwark for local communities against the encroachment of palm oil and timber operations. - Since 2000, however, a fifth of the region’s damar agroforests have been razed for sawmills and oil palm plantations, with land grabs and low resin prices driving the decline.
Could fungi provide an alternative to palm oil? [10/19/2017]
- Palm oil is used in everything from margarine and ice cream to cosmetics and certain fabrics. - But the palm oil industry has a history of association with deforestation and human rights abuses. As oil palm plantations continue to expand to more tropical areas around the world, many are worried they will come at the expense of rainforests. - A biotech startup in the U.S. thinks it has found an alternative to palm oil – fungus that can be grown on food waste. - But while lab experiments have demonstrated some success, it remains to be seen whether fungus-derived oil can be produced in quantities large and cheap enough to compete with palm oil.
Conservation leaders in Africa call for a crackdown on biopiracy [10/13/2017]
- Indigenous rights groups and others have long criticized the lack of benefit sharing between bio-prospectors and the local communities that inhabit the places where the organisms are found, calling such acts “biopiracy.” - The African Union (AU) Strategic Guidelines for the Coordinated Implementation of the Nagoya Protocol in Africa was adopted by the AU Assembly at its 25th Ordinary Session, which was held in South Africa in 2015. The guidelines aim to provide a roadmap for implementation of the Protocol and Access and Benefit Sharing system at national and regional levels. - But while the Nagoya Protocol and its AU implementation guidelines address many issues, some stakeholders remain worried about those not covered – such as off-site synthesis using information previously collected and the use of materials cultivated abroad.
‘Then they shot me’: Land conflict and murder in Ucayali, Peru [10/12/2017]
- In September, six people were murdered in Bajo Rayal, Peru. - A conflict over the possession of 450 hectares of forest appears to be the motive behind the killings. - Mongabay Latam went to Bajo Rayal to investigate, and discovered around 300,000 hectares of forest in the region are under dispute and being considered for agricultural conversion.
The palm oil fiefdom [10/10/2017]
- This is the first installment of Indonesia for Sale, an in-depth series on the corruption behind Indonesia’s deforestation and land rights crisis. - Indonesia for Sale is a collaboration between Mongabay and The Gecko Project, an investigative reporting initiative established by UK-based nonprofit Earthsight. - The series is the product of nine months’ reporting across the Southeast Asian country, interviewing fixers, middlemen, lawyers and companies involved in land deals, and those most affected by them.
Indonesia for Sale: in-depth series on corruption, palm oil and rainforests launches [10/10/2017]
- The investigative series Indonesia for Sale, launching this week, shines new light on the corruption behind Indonesia’s deforestation and land rights crisis. - In-depth stories, to be released over the coming months, will expose the role of collusion between palm oil firms and politicians in subverting Indonesia’s democracy. They will be published in English and Indonesian. - The series is the product of nine months’ reporting across the country, interviewing fixers, middlemen, lawyers and companies involved in land deals, and those most affected by them. - Indonesia for Sale is a collaboration between Mongabay and The Gecko Project, an investigative reporting initiative established by UK-based nonprofit Earthsight.
‘Queen of Coal’ named corruption suspect in Indonesia [10/05/2017]
- Rita Widyasari was named suspect by Indonesia’s antigraft body earlier this month. - She was alleged to accept a a 6 billion rupiah ($442,000) bribe from plantation businessman Hari Susanto Gun. - The head of Kutai Kartanegara district in East Kalimantan is often dubbed the “queen of coal” given the number of mining permits she has issued.
Poor grade for Malaysia, Singapore brands in palm oil sustainability: WWF [09/22/2017]
- Two out of three companies in Malaysia and Singapore are not transparent about their palm oil use, the World Wildlife Fund contends. - Most of these companies do not source palm oil that has been certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. - Malaysia and Singapore’s brands have lower sustainability grades compared to global brands.
Oil palm firms advance into Leuser rainforest, defying Aceh governor’s orders [09/18/2017]
- The government of Indonesia’s Aceh province has banned land clearance for oil palm development inside the Leuser Ecosystem. - However, deforestation is still ongoing as some companies ignore the moratorium. - During the first seven months of 2017, Leuser lost 3,941 hectares of forest cover, an area almost three times as large as Los Angeles International Airport, watchdogs say.
Samsung won’t partner with Korindo following outrage over forest destruction in Indonesia [09/14/2017]
- Under fire from watchdogs and consumers of its smartphones, Samsung said it would not pursue a joint venture with Korindo, itself the target of an NGO campaign for destroying rainforests in Indonesia. - Korindo was previously outed in a Mighty Earth report for using fire to clear dense forests in Indonesia’s Tanah Papua region, home to birds-of-paradise and tree kangaroos. - Papua is the last frontier for oil palm plantation firms like Korindo, and they move east in search of land on which to expand.
Palm oil giant FGV will ‘endeavor to rehabilitate’ peatlands it trashed in Borneo [09/13/2017]
- About a year ago, Felda Global Ventures promised to stop clearing rainforests and peatlands to make way for its oil palm estates. - This year, though watchdogs reported that the company had continued to clear over 1,000 hectares of forest and peat in Indonesian Borneo, violating not only its green pledge but also its obligations as a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), as well as a new government regulation. - Last month, FGV renewed its commitment and said it would try to rehabilitate the peatlands it planted since August 2016.
Philippine palm oil plan ‘equals corruption and land-grabbing,’ critics say [08/31/2017]
- With its renewed promotion of what it calls the “Sunshine Industry,” the Philippine government is looking to cultivate another one million hectares of oil palm, 98 percent of which would be on the island of Mindanao. - Proponents say increasing palm oil production will alleviate poverty and armed conflict through large investments from Malaysian, Indonesian and Singaporean firms and other foreign and domestic companies, and tout potential revenue brought by palm oil’s increasing demand as a food and cosmetic ingredient and biofuel. - But critics worry expansion of the country’s palm oil industry will benefit large companies at the expense of small farmers, forests, and water quality.
These 3 companies owe Indonesia millions of dollars for damaging the environment. Why haven’t they paid? [08/23/2017]
- The Indonesian government has been trying to collect penalties from three companies found guilty of damaging the environment. - One of the companies is PT Kallista Alam, an oil palm plantation firm convicted of cut-and-burning rainforest in the Leuser Ecosystem. - Another is PT Merbau Pelalawan Lestari, a timber plantation firm that was ordered to pay more than a billion dollars for illegal logging. - The government plans to establish a task force for the express purpose of collecting the penalties.
Doubts cloud Kenya’s renewed palm oil ambitions [08/21/2017]
- Kenya is looking to increase its own production to reduce reliance on imports. Officials say producing palm oil domestically would reduce importation costs while opening new income streams for farmers. - Kenya is also looking to cash in on the industry’s profitability and efficiency as global demand for palm oil rises. - But critics worry that increasing palm oil production in Kenya may come at a cost. They say smallholder farmers could lose out to industrial producers, and clearing land for oil palm plantations could increase deforestation and carbon emissions.
A clouded future: Asia’s enigmatic clouded leopard threatened by palm oil [08/17/2017]
- The clouded leopard is the least well-known of the big cats. Both species (Neofelis nebulosa and Neofelis diarti) are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN across their ranges. - Clouded leopard habitat falls within three of the world’s top palm oil producing countries: Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. While many questions remain about this elusive species’ ecology, it’s widely believed that palm oil development severely threatens its long-term survival in the wild. - At a recent workshop in Sabah, Malaysia, experts devised a 10-year action plan to help secure the Sunda clouded leopard in the state, where it’s estimated there are around 700 left in the wild. - Biologists who study the species are hopeful that enough time remains to save the species in the long term – if plantations and development take conservation into consideration.
Mammal numbers high in logged tropical forests, study finds [08/16/2017]
- The study quantified mammal numbers in forests and landscapes with varying degrees of human impact in Malaysian Borneo. - Across 57 mammal species recorded with live and camera traps, the average number of all animals combined was 28 percent higher in logged forests — where hunting wasn’t an issue — compared to old-growth forests. - The findings demonstrate the importance of conserving degraded forests along with more pristine areas.
International investment blamed for violence and oppression in Sarawak [08/15/2017]
- Land rights activist Bill Kayong was shot dead last year in Miri, Sarawak. Representatives of a palm oil plantation company were charged with his murder, but were later acquitted. - Their acquittal was denounced by many observers, who see it as yet another blow against indigenous communities in the fight for their land. - NGOs in Sarawak and around the world report failures by the Sarawak government to uphold indigenous land rights, and failures by international banks and investors to ensure their investments are conflict-free. - Investigators urge more accountability when it comes to international financing of development ventures. They also say retail customers could “act as change agents and raise the bar for banks’ respect for indigenous rights.”
First real test for Jokowi on haze as annual fires return to Indonesia [08/08/2017]
- Land and forest fires have broken out in pockets of Indonesia since mid-July. - Last year the country caught a break, when a longer-than-normal wet season brought on by La Niña helped mitigate the fire threat. - This year, hotspots have started appearing in regions with no history of major land and forest fires, like East Nusa Tenggara and Aceh. - The government has responded by declaring an emergency status as well as deploying firefighters.
Five instances in which Peru won the battle against deforestation [08/02/2017]
- The main activities that have threatened forests in these areas include illegal gold mining and the advancement of industrial agriculture. - Satellite images show deforestation for large oil palm and cacao plantations in central and northern Peru is no longer expanding. - Illegal mining-driven deforestation within Amarakaeri Communal Reserve and Tambopata National Reserve has ceased.
Orangutans find home in degraded forests [07/24/2017]
- The study leveraged three years of orangutan observation in the field and airborne mapping of the forest structure using laser-based light detection and ranging (LiDAR) technology. - The research team found that orangutans make use of habitats that have been ‘degraded’ by logging and other human uses. - The research is part of a larger effort in collaboration with the Sabah Forestry Department to map carbon stocks and plant and animal biodiversity throughout the Malaysian state of Sabah with the goal of identifying new areas for conservation.
Mounting outcry over Indonesian palm oil bill as legislators press on [07/21/2017]
- The bill cements the right of oil palm planters to operate on peat soil, at a time when President Joko Widodo is trying to enforce new peat protections to stop another outbreak of devastating fires and haze. - The bill has also been criticized for outlining a variety of tax breaks and duty relief schemes for palm oil investors, although those provisions have been dialed back — but not completely eliminated — in the latest draft. - The bill’s main champion in the House of Representatives is the Golkar Party’s Firman Soebagyo. He says it will help farmers and protect Indonesian palm oil from foreign intervention. - Responding to mounting public criticism, some cabinet members recently asked the House to abandon the bill, but Soebagyo, who is leading the deliberations, says they will continue.
Big forests, big ag: Are rainforests the right place for industrial agriculture? (commentary) [07/20/2017]
- Gabon remains a relative stronghold for endangered wildlife like chimpanzees and forest elephants. - Singapore-based Olam International, one of the world’s largest agribusinesses, has agreed not to plant palm oil in protected wetlands, and also set aside conservation areas and corridors for wildlife in its concessions in Gabon. - But there is only so much that can be done to minimize the impact of clearing 26,000 hectares in the middle of one of the world’s most forested countries. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Unveiled: The unraveling of Nicaragua’s Indio Maíz Biological Reserve (commentary) [06/29/2017]
- There is evidence of disturbing trends in illegal colonization and deforestation inside the IMBR. Satellite images, interviews with locals, and ground-truthing at key locations unveil proof that the Indio Maíz may be destined to unravel. - Deforestation within the boundaries of the IMBR claimed about 2,434 hectares (about 6,015 acres) between 2001-2014. A satellite image analysis shows that deforestation extends approximately 10.3 kilometers (6.1 miles) from the western boundary of the reserve inward. - Nicaragua’s current government has been in power over ten years and has shown increasing disregard for its own environmental laws and the agencies tasked with their enforcement. This is evident in the case of the IMBR. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
New investor guide aims to help navigate social and environmental risks of commodities supply chains [06/28/2017]
- Procuring agricultural commodities has become a much more difficult business function for food makers and agribusiness conglomerates to perform amidst rising global temperatures and unpredictable weather patterns, as well as increasingly widespread groundwater depletion and soil erosion, all of which affect agricultural productivity and raise the cost of sourcing in-demand raw materials. - Engage the Chain offers guidance to investors on how to evaluate the level of risk in their portfolios, and also includes a number of examples of the types of threats these environmental and social impacts can pose to companies that, unwittingly or not, find their supply chains associated with them, from reputational and brand damage to litigation and running afoul of regulators. - Ceres developed the guide through a peer review process that included input from top investors, a number of companies involved in the global commodities trade, and environmental NGOs.
Audio: The fight to save Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem [06/27/2017]
- One of the richest, most biodiverse tropical forests on the planet, Leuser is currently being targeted for expansion of oil palm plantations by a number of companies. - Tillack explains just what makes Leuser so unique and valuable, details some of her organization’s investigations into the ongoing clearance of Leuser in violation of Indonesia’s moratorium on deforestation for new oil palm plantations, and how consumers like you and me can help decide the fate of the region. - We also welcome to the show research ecologist Marcone Campos Cerqueira for our latest Field Notes segment. Cerqueira has recently completed a study that used bioacoustic monitoring to examine bird ranges in the mountains of Puerto Rico, and he’ll share some of his recordings with us on today’s show.
Borneo’s ‘biocultural holocaust’: an interview with author Alex Shoumatoff [06/19/2017]
- Over the past half century, we’ve laid waste to the rainforests of Borneo thanks to humanity’s demand for food, fuel, and fiber. - The Wasting of Borneo, a new book by Alex Shoumatoff, chronicles some of Borneo’s staggering losses - Shoumatoff is a former writer and editor for The New Yorker, Outside, Condé Nast Traveler, and Vanity Fair who Donald Trump once called “the greatest writer in America”.
Mangrove loss threatens migratory shorebird route in North Sumatra [06/15/2017]
- A new study examines the impact of agricultural expansion on an important shorebird habitat in North Sumatra. - Mangrove cover in the Indonesian province has dropped 85 percent in the last 14 years. - The study’s authors want the government to issue a regulation to protect shorebirds specifically.
Norway bans government purchasing of palm oil biofuel [06/13/2017]
- The growth of the palm oil industry has been blamed for a host of damaging environmental impacts, such as deforestation and carbon emissions. - Research indicates that biofuel made with palm oil may be even worse for the climate than fossil fuels. - The Norwegian parliament responded to these impacts by voting in a regulation to its Public Procurement Act to stop using biofuel palm oil-based biofuel. The resolution further stipulates that the “regulatory amendment shall enter into force as soon as possible.” - Conservationists laud the move, but say more countries need to follow suit. They recommend the EU’s biofuel policy be updated to reflect concerns about palm oil.
FSC to investigate Korean conglomerate’s palm oil operations in Indonesia [06/07/2017]
- The group submitted the complaint to the FSC on May 15, 2017, together with evidence that Mighty Earth said showed the Korindo Group has, since 2013, cleared more than 30,000 hectares (over 74,000 acres) of rainforest for palm oil production in the Indonesian provinces of Papua and North Maluku. - “The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has formally accepted a Policy for Association (PfA) complaint submitted by Mighty Earth against Korindo Group (Korindo) for ‘Significant conversion of forests to plantations or non-forest use’,” the certification body confirmed in a statement released today. - In its Policy for the Association of Organizations with FSC (PfA), the certification body lists a number of “unacceptable forest-related activities” in which companies cannot directly or indirectly engage — essentially giving the FSC a means of protecting its reputation and “ability to deliver on its mission” should a company with certified operations be found to be responsible for unsustainable practices in some of its other operations.
Indonesia’s plantation lobby challenges environmental law [06/07/2017]
- The Indonesian Palm Oil Association (GAPKI) and the Indonesian Association of Forestry Concessionaires (APHI) lodged a judicial review with the Constitutional Court last month. - They want the court to edit the 1999 Forestry Law and the 2009 Environment Law so that companies are not strictly liable for fires that occur in their concessions. - They also want to the court to extend the ban on using fire to clear land to small farmers.
Financing sustainable agriculture possible, if terms fit farmers’ needs [06/02/2017]
- Worldwide, more deforestation results from the push for farmland than any other cause. - The Global Canopy Programme reports that funding aimed at encouraging a move away from deforestation-based agriculture and toward more sustainable methods must be designed to address the needs of farmers. - Loans with longer terms and lower interest rates can help farmers who are switching to sustainable agriculture survive the ‘valley of death’ – that is, the first few years of new methods before their production becomes profitable.
Philippines’ indigenous Higaonon fight for return of ancestral land [06/01/2017]
- The Higaonon filed an “ancestral domain claim” in 2002 for land they have traditionally inhabited, which is their right under the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997. But the government allowed agribusiness company A Brown Corporation, Inc., to establish oil palm plantations through its subsidiary ABERDI on the land that same year. - Members of local human rights organizations allege legally required free, prior and informed consent was never obtained by the company before setting up its plantations, and that some residents were tricked into waiving the rights to their land. - Residents claim intimidation and harassment by ABERDI and other subsidiary company Nakeen, and say they were left with nothing after plantation operations ceased – despite initial promises of benefits. - A government representative said there is an ongoing investigation into whether ABERDI is operating with the proper permits.
Pressure builds on palm oil firm Goodhope after RSPO sanction [05/31/2017]
- The RSPO ordered Goodhope to freeze its operations in Indonesia earlier this month amid allegations of land grabbing and forest destruction. - Goodhope said recently that it needed more time than the RSPO had given it to bring its operations into compliance with the roundtable’s standards. - The company says it is working with credible auditors to conduct new assessments of its concessions, after the RSPO deemed previous audits the firm had commissioned as lacking in credibility.
Wilmar appeals RSPO ruling that it grabbed indigenous lands in Sumatra [05/17/2017]
- Palm oil giant Wilmar has been involved in a land conflict with the Kapa people of West Sumatra for years. - Earlier this year, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil ruled in favor of a complaint filed against Wilmar. Wilmar said it accepted the ruling. - Now Wilmar is appealing the ruling on procedural grounds. The company says it wasn’t properly consulted during the process. - The Forest Peoples Programme, an NGO helping the Kapa through the process, says the company is stalling, “which we see as a tactic to delay having to address outstanding human rights violations.”
Palm oil firm pledges to stop deforesting after RSPO freezes its operations in Papua [05/11/2017]
- Goodhope Asia Holdings, an arm of Sri Lanka’s Carson Cumberbatch, is the latest palm oil company to promise to purge its operations of deforestation, peatland conversion and human rights abuses. - Announcing such a commitment and implementing it are two different matters. Despite the growing prevalence of such pledges, no major user or processor of palm oil can say it has actually eliminated deforestation from its supply chain. - Goodhope subsidiary PT Nabire Baru presides over what one watchdog called “possibly the most controversial plantation in Papua.”
Industry-NGO coalition releases toolkit for making ‘No Deforestation’ commitments a reality on the ground [05/10/2017]
- Numerous companies involved in the global palm oil supply chain, from producers and traders to consumer companies that use the commodity in their products, have adopted Zero Deforestation commitments — but pledging to address the deforestation and human rights abuses associated with palm oil supply chains is one thing, while making those commitments a reality on the ground is another. - Companies have said they need more support from governments of tropical forest nations to make their Zero Deforestation commitments a reality, citing a maze of administrative and regulatory frameworks across palm oil producing countries as hampering their efforts. - The new HCS Approach Toolkit might help address this very issue, however, as it is intended to standardize the methodology for protecting tropical forests and identifying suitable landscapes for the sustainable production of palm oil. - The revised HCS Approach Toolkit lays out the fundamental elements of a methodology for protecting high carbon stock (HCS) forests and other high conservation value (HCV) areas such as peatlands. Simply achieving “no deforestation” is not the only goal of the revised HCS Approach, though.
In Liberia, a battered palm oil industry adjusts to new rules [05/10/2017]
- Palm oil companies signed a series of large contracts between 2008-2012 to develop plantations in Liberia. - Disputes over land ownership by rural communities and the imposition of new environmental rules have forced investors to adjust their projections. - The ‘High Carbon Stock’ approach, endorsed by environmental advocates, will restrict expansion in some cases.
‘Killed, forced, afraid’: Philippine palm oil legacy incites new fears [05/09/2017]
- Following a rush of corporate investment in the 1960s, agroindustry company NDC-Guthrie set up camp on the Philippine island of Mindanao. The company hired a private security force dubbed the “Lost Command” to protect its oil palm plantations. - Sources say the Lost Command used violence to expand NDC-Guthrie’s land holdings in the 1980s, with allegations ranging from forcibly displacing residents of local communities and extorting business-owners to looting, rape, and even murder. - In the 1990s NDC-Guthrie was bought by Filipinas Palm Oil Plantations Inc. (FPPI), which continues to operate in the region today. A company representative said “issues have been blown up” and that FPPI is interested in expanding further in Mindanao. - The administration of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (2001-2010) touted oil palm propagation as a way to elevate the national economy and even stem armed conflict. But industry watchdog groups disagree, saying palm oil’s track record of conflict in the Philippine archipelago does not bode well for the future.
RSPO freezes palm oil company’s operations in Papua [05/07/2017]
- The RSPO ordered Goodhope Asia Holdings to stop work in seven of its concessions in Indonesia, citing “poor quality” audits commissioned by the company to ensure it follows RSPO rules. - High Conservation Value assessments for all seven of the concessions were conducted by a team of Bogor Agricultural University lecturers led by Nyoto Santoso. The assessments are being treated as suspect by the RSPO. - While Goodhope opposes the measures, they have been lauded by environmental NGOs as a positive step.
Indigenous lands ‘critical’ to forest protection in Peru, biodiversity maps show [05/05/2017]
- Indigenous lands account for 36 percent of protected forests in Peru. - In total, 42.6 percent of Peru’s forest fall under some sort of protection, and the new biodiversity maps highlight forest types that are underrepresented in that figure. - The forests in the transition zone between the Andes and the Amazon appear to be the most in danger, as the forest types in this area are found at some of the lowest levels in Peru’s parks, reserves and concessions. This area also faces some of the highest deforestation rates in the country.
Over the bridge: The battle for the future of the Kinabatangan [05/03/2017]
- Proponents of the project contend that a bridge and associated paved road to Sukau would have helped the town grow and improve the standard of living for its residents. - Environmental groups argue that the region’s unrealized potential for high-end nature tourism could bring similar economic benefits without disturbing local populations of elephants, orangutans and other struggling wildlife. - The mid-April cancellation of the bridge was heralded as a success for rainforest conservation, but bigger questions loom about the future of local communities, the sanctuary and its wildlife.
Preserving orangutan culture an ingredient for successful conservation [05/02/2017]
- Scientists once thought that all animal behavior was instinctual, but now know that many animals — particularly social animals — are able to think and to learn, and to display culturally learned behaviors. - Orangutans are one animal in which occurrences of culture have been fairly well proven, with orangutan groups at different study sites displaying variant behaviors that have neither environmental nor genetic origins, meaning they can only be cultural in nature. - Among these cultural behaviors are basic tool making and use for food harvesting, purposeful vocalizations, and variations in nest building materials and methods. Scientists fear habitat loss and crashing populations could cause this cultural heritage to vanish. - The loss of varied cultural behaviors could potentially make orangutans less adaptable to changes in their environment at a time when, under extreme pressure from human development, these great apes need all the resources they can muster.
An interactive map connects landowners and forest change in one of the world’s most biodiverse places [04/28/2017]
- The Atlas of Deforestation and Industrial Plantations in Borneo documents the loss of rainforest over 40 years from oil palm and pulpwood plantations in one of Earth’s most biodiverse places. - By connecting landowners and deforestation patterns publicly available, the atlas adds transparency to wood and oil palm supply chains. - Allowing users to see how human impacts have reshaped Borneo is essential amid competing demands for cheap oil and conserved forest.
Study finds there are ways to mitigate deforestation risks of palm oil expansion in Africa [04/20/2017]
- It’s been estimated that, over the next five years, as much as 22 million hectares (or more than 54 million acres) of land in Central and West Africa could be converted to oil palm plantations. - Seven African nations signed a pledge dedicating themselves to the sustainable development of the palm oil sector, known as the Marrakesh Declaration, at the UN climate talks in Marrakesh, Morocco last November. - According to a study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters earlier this month, those seven nations, which collectively represent 70 percent of Africa’s tropical forests, have good reason to be proactive when it comes to managing the rollout of oil palm operations within their borders. But there is also reason to hope that oil palm expansion in Africa will be done more sustainably in Africa.
No safe forest left: 250 captive orphan chimps stuck in sanctuaries [04/20/2017]
- Cameroon currently has more than 250 rescued chimpanzees living in three chimp wildlife sanctuaries. Attempts to find forests into which to release them — safe from the bushmeat and pet trade, and not already occupied by other chimpanzee populations — have failed so far. - The intensification of logging, mining and agribusiness, plus new roads into remote areas, along with a growing rural human population, are putting intense pressure on un-conserved forests as well as protected lands. - Unless habitat loss, poaching and trafficking are controlled in Cameroon, reintroduction of captive chimpanzees may not be achievable. Some conservationists argue, however, that reintroduction of captive animals is needed to enhance genetic resilience in wild populations. - If current rates of decline are not curbed, primatologists estimate that chimpanzees could be gone from Cameroon’s forests within 15 to 20 years.
RSPO accused of letting palm oil firm proceed with dodgy audits in Papua [04/14/2017]
- The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil is the world’s largest association for ethical production of the commodity, found in everything from chocolate to makeup and laundry detergent. - The RSPO’s credibility rests on the quality of its system for ensuring its member companies actually adhere to its standards. - Two years after the RSPO finally acknowledged deficiencies in its certification system, observers say the organization has done little to follow up on its commitment to address the issue.
Rainforest conservation may be aimed at the wrong places, study finds [04/13/2017]
- Climate-based conservation policies often focus on forests with large carbon stores – but what this means for biodiversity protection has been unclear. - Previous research found a link between tree diversity and carbon storage on the small-scale, with tropical forests that have more tree species possessing larger stores of carbon. But this correlation had not been tested for larger areas. - Researchers examined thousands of trees at hundreds of sites in the tropical forests of South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. Their results indicate that on the one-hectare scale, tree diversity is low and carbon storage is quite high in Africa, while the opposite is the case in South America. In Southeast Asia, both carbon stocks and tree diversity appear to be high. - The researchers say their results indicate carbon-focused conservation policies may be missing highly biodiverse ecosystems, and recommend a more fine-tuned approach for prioritizing areas for conservation.
Connectivity and coexistence key to orangutan survival on croplands [04/13/2017]
- Orangutans are in drastic decline, largely due to habitat loss. From 1973–2010, Borneo lost 39 percent of its forests; estimates say that another 37 percent of orangutan-suitable habitat will be converted to agricultural use there through 2025. Similarly, 60 percent of habitat suitable for Sumatran orangutans was lost between 1985 and 2007. - If orangutans are to survive in the wild through the 21st century, researchers will need to discover ways in which the animals can be helped to coexist with humans within agricultural landscapes. Researchers are also looking for creative ways to provide connectivity between remaining forest patches to promote and preserve genetic resilience. - Scientists Gail Campbell-Smith, Marc Ancrenaz and others have shown that orangutans can use croplands, including oil palm plantations, if humans work to prevent conflict. Noise deterrents, such as bamboo cannon guns, along with the education of farm laborers and agribusiness companies, are techniques helping to reduce animal-human conflicts. - Researcher Marc Ancrenaz and colleagues provided orangutans and other arboreal wildlife with rope bridges over small rivers in Malaysia — a successful approach to providing connectivity. It took four years for orangutans to begin using the bridges, but now young orangutan males use the structures to disperse more widely.
Governments must do more to help companies end deforestation in commodities supply chains, companies say [04/11/2017]
- Fern conducted interviews with and policy reviews of 15 companies, from major consumer-facing companies like IKEA, Nestlé, and Unilever, to producers and traders such as APP (Asia Pulp and Paper), Cargill, Golden Agri-Resources, and Sime Darby. - One overriding message emerged, Fern reports: companies see government policies and actions — or lack thereof — as one of the main obstacles to cleaning up their supply chains. - Many companies view the governments of countries where commodities production occurs as having a crucial role to play in “creating an enabling framework of rules, regulations and effective administration without which private sector commitments to tackle deforestation can only have limited impact,” the report states.
Jurisdictional certification approach aims to strengthen protections against deforestation [04/04/2017]
- Jurisdictional certification brings together all stakeholders across all commodities within a district or state to ensure the entire region is deforestation-free. - A few tropical forest regions have long used the jurisdictional approach; with proven success, more regions are now following suit. - Pilot programs in Brazil and elsewhere exemplify the successes and challenges of the jurisdictional approach.
Ebo forest great apes threatened by stalled Cameroon national park [04/03/2017]
- Cameroon’s Ebo forest is home to key populations of tool-wielding Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees, along with an unspecified subspecies of gorilla, drills, Preuss’s Red Colobus, forest elephants, and a great deal more biodiversity. - The forest is vulnerable, unprotected due to a drawn-out fight to secure its status as a national park. Logging and hunting threaten Ebo’s biodiversity. The Cameroonian palm oil company Azur recently began planting a 123,000 hectare plantation on its boundary. - The Ebo Forest Research Project (EFRP) has been working successfully to change the habits of local people who have long subsisted on the forest’s natural resources — turning hunters into great ape guardians. But without the establishment of the national park and full legal protection and enforcement, everyone’s efforts may be in vain.
Almost 1M hectares ‘missing’ from land holdings of major palm oil companies [03/29/2017]
- Palm oil is a major driver of tropical deforestation. The report was produced by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), which looked at information publicly disclosed by 50 of the most major palm oil production companies. - Its findings indicate that while most companies disclose the area of planted land they manage, many fail to reveal the size, location, and use of many other areas in their portfolio, defying corporate accountability and concealing potential social and environmental risks. - A supply chain expert says failures to disclose information don’t necessarily signal ill will on the part of the companies. Instead, it may be the result of unclear expectations, definitions, and protocols for reporting. - The Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the world’s leading palm oil certification body, is reportedly working to improve the reporting process of its member companies.
As Thailand ramps up its palm oil sector, peat forests feel the pressure [03/24/2017]
- Thailand is currently the world’s third-largest producer of palm oil. As of 2015, around 70 percent of land used for oil palm cultivation was managed by small-scale farmers. - Most of Thailand’s palm oil is grown in the southern part of the country. In one protected area, called Pru Kaching, the government is trying to reclaim land from palm oil growers. But complicating factors have mired the effort. - In order to grow crops like oil palm in peatlands, the swampy peat must be drained – which releases carbon into the atmosphere and makes the forests that overlay them more susceptible to fire.
Indonesian Supreme Court orders Jokowi administration to hand over palm oil permit data [03/10/2017]
- Forest Watch Indonesia has been trying to force the Ministry of Land and Spatial Planning to release in full the maps of oil palm companies’ concessions, known as HGUs. - The Supreme Court’s decision hands the NGO a victory in its freedom of information request, launched in 2015. - Once it receives the hard copies of the documents, FWI will scan and upload them on its website.
From conflict to communities: Forests in Liberia [03/10/2017]
- Liberia holds 40 percent of West Africa’s Upper Guinean rainforest. - National and international organizations have worked with communities and the country’s leadership to clean up the corruption that many say has pervaded outside investments in timber and commercial agriculture. - Currently, the Land Rights Act, which would give communities more control over their forests, awaits approval, but its progress has been paralyzed, in part by this year’s elections.
Industry-backed plantation museum opens in Indonesia [03/09/2017]
- The museum was inaugurated by the North Sumatra provincial government last December. - The idea came from the CEO of Bakrie Sumatera Plantations, a major oil palm grower. - It is Indonesia’s first plantation museum.
Audio: Meet the ‘Almost Famous Animals’ that deserve more conservation recognition [03/07/2017]
- The Almost Famous series was created in the hope that familiarity will help generate concern and action for under-appreciated species. Glenn tells us all about how species get selected for coverage and his favorite animals profiled in the series. - We also feature another installment of our Field Notes segment on this episode of the Newscast. - Luca Pozzi, an evolutionary primatologist at the University of Texas, San Antonio, recently helped establish a new genus of galagos, or bushbabies, found in southeastern Africa. We play some of the calls made by galagos in the wild, and Luca explains how those recordings aid in our scientific knowledge about wildlife.
Where the forest grants went [03/06/2017]
- With a view to providing a map of forest philanthropy, the Environmental Funders Network’s Forest Funders Group – an affinity group for foundations focused on forest conservation – has developed a methodology for describing forest grants by geography, focal issue, and approach. - The mapping has been piloted on grants data submitted by five European-based foundations that made 652 grants between them in the study period (2011 to 2015), averaging £3.1m per year. - Although this captures just a fraction of the forest grants made worldwide, it yields tantalising points for reflection. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
HSBC to stop financing deforestation-linked palm oil firms [03/03/2017]
- A recent Greenpeace report accused the bank of marshalling $16.3 billion in financing for six firms since 2012 that have illegally cleared forests, planted oil palm on carbon-rich peat soil and grabbed community lands. - The investigation prompted scores of people to join a campaign to change the bank’s policies, including thousands of HSBC’s own customers. - The bank’s new policy requires HSBC customers to commit to protecting natural forest and peatland by June 30, and provide independent verification of their own NDPE commitments by Dec. 31, 2018.
Forests provide a nutritional boon to some communities, research shows [03/02/2017]
- The new study, across 24 countries, shows a wide range in the variability of how communities use forests for food. - The nutrients provided by wild fruits, vegetables, game and fish are critical to the nutritional health of some communities and should play a role in decisions about land usage. - Land-use decisions should factor in the importance of forest foods to some communities, say the authors.
A Bornean village conserves a forest the government listed for cutting [03/02/2017]
- Residents of Bawan village in Indonesia Borneo applied for a permit to manage their land as a “village forest,” a form of community forestry being pushed by President Joko Widodo’s administration. - The national government had designated the area as “production forest,” meaning it could be sold to a plantation or mining company, but residents chose instead to protect the land. - “I consider Bawan’s village forest a champion project,” said Lilik Sugiarti, a USAID representative who helped to bring it about.
Environmental costs, benefits and possibilities: Q&A with anthropologist Eben Kirksey [02/28/2017]
- The environmental humanities pull together the tools of the anthropologist and the biologist. - Anthropologist Eben Kirksey has studied the impact of mining, logging and infrastructure development on the Mee people of West Papua, Indonesia, revealing the inequalities that often underpins who benefits and who suffers as a result of natural resource extraction. - Kirksey reports that West Papuans are nurturing a new form of nationalism that might help bring some equality to environmental change.
Survival of nearly 10,000 orangutans in Borneo oil palm estates at stake [02/27/2017]
- 10,000 orangutans remain in areas currently allocated to oil palm. These animals can only survive if environmental practices in plantations adhere to standards such as those prescribed by RSPO. - Orangutan rescues should only be allowed when no other solutions exist; otherwise they will aggravate problems of deforestation and orangutan killing. - Further scrutiny of companies and other groups that are at the forefront of these improvements is needed, but increasingly campaigners should focus on the laggards and rogues that cause the greatest environmental damage. - This a commentary – the views expressed are those of the authors.
The Republic of Congo: on the cusp of forest conservation [02/27/2017]
- The Republic of Congo’s high forest cover and low annual deforestation rates of just over 0.05 percent have led to the country being named as a priority country by the UN’s REDD+ program. - The country has numerous protected areas and has signed agreements to certify the sustainability and legality of its timber industry. - Skeptics caution that more needs to be done to address corruption and protect the country’s forests, a third of which are still relatively untouched.
Audio: Naomi Oreskes on what stories we can’t let get lost in the noise of 2017 and why scientists should speak up [02/21/2017]
- Because there is so much uncertainty around the new Trump Administration, especially around its energy, environment, and climate policies, we decided to dedicate this episode to trying to answer some of those questions. - We continue to take a look at what this year will bring for energy and the environment under President Trump with Bobby Magill, a senior science writer for Climate Central and the president of the Society of Environmental Journalists. - We also welcome Jeff Ruch, executive director of the non-profit service organization Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, to share with us what he’s been hearing so far from employees of the Environmental Protection Agency about their concerns with the Trump Administration’s environmental policies.
What happens when the soy and palm oil boom ends? [02/21/2017]
- Over the past 30 years demand and production of oils crops like oil palm and soybeans has boomed across the tropics. - This rapid expansion has in some places taken a heavy toll on native, wildlife-rich ecosystems. - Derek Byerlee, co-author of a new book titled The Tropical Oil Crop Revolution, spoke with Mongabay about the tropical oil crop sector and what’s to come for the industry.
Protected areas found to be ‘significant’ sources of carbon emissions [02/17/2017]
- The researchers found 2,018 protected areas across the tropics store nearly 15 percent of all tropical forest carbon. This is because protected areas tend to have denser, older forest – thus, higher carbon stocks. - Their study uncovered that, on average, nearly 0.2 percent of protected area forest cover was razed per year between 2000 and 2012. - Less than nine percent of the reserves that the researchers sampled contributed 80 percent of the total carbon emissions between 2000 and 2012, putting this small subset of reserves on par with the UK’s entire transportation sector. - The researchers say their findings could help prioritize conservation attention.
Wilmar grabbed indigenous lands in Sumatra, RSPO finds [02/16/2017]
- The Kapa are a Minangkabau people in Indonesia’s West Sumatra province. - The community accused Wilmar International, the world’s largest palm oil company, of planting oil palm in their territory without their permission. - Wilmar is a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, meaning that it must respect the right of communities to veto development projects on their land. - The RSPO recently decided that Wilmar had violated the Kapa’s right to “free, prior and informed consent.”
Latin America palm oil production doubled since 2001 without massive uptick in deforestation [02/14/2017]
- A study published earlier this month in the journal Environmental Research Letters by researchers with the University of Puerto Rico looks at the types of land being converted to oil palm plantations in Latin America. - Much of the land that has been turned over to palm oil production was originally cleared by ranchers so they could graze their cattle on it, according to the study. - If palm oil continues to replace pastures instead of forests, the authors of the study suggest, Latin America may be well positioned as a regional producer of sustainable palm oil.
Investors learning to pay heed to community land rights [02/13/2017]
- Most conflicts besetting private investments in Africa – 63 percent – relate to pushing people off their lands. - These conflicts affect agriculture, mining, and even green energy investments. - In Southern Africa, 73 percent of conflicts turned violent and 73 percent halted work on the developments.
World’s largest tropical peatlands discovered in swamp forests of Congo Basin [02/09/2017]
- The peatlands, which weren’t even known to exist as recently as five years ago, were revealed to cover 145,500 square kilometres (or more than 17,500 square miles), an area larger than England, and to sequester some 30 billion metric tons of carbon. - That makes them one of the most carbon-rich ecosystems on Earth, according to the researchers who made the discovery and subsequently mapped the peatlands. - Professor Simon Lewis and Dr. Greta Dargie, who are both affiliated with the University of Leeds and University College London, first discovered the peatlands’ existence while doing fieldwork in the region in 2012.
Will there really be enough sustainable palm oil for the whole market? [02/07/2017]
- A report by non-profit CDP suggests companies may have a false confidence in their ability to find enough sustainable palm oil to meet their commitments. - Certified sustainable palm oil was in short supply last summer and prices spiked when two major producers were suspended by the industry’s main certification association, revealing vulnerabilities in the supply. - Better planning to secure future supply includes working more intensively with suppliers, says CDP.
Honduran politicians, US aid implicated in killings of environmentalists [02/01/2017]
- An investigation by NGO Global Witness finds Honduras has one of the one of the world’s highest levels of violence against environmental activists, with more than 120 killed since 2010. - Investigators say government corruption surrounding development projects like dams, mines, and oil palm plantations are largely to blame. - Their report also highlights international finance institutions as playing a role in conflicts surrounding hydroelectric projects, as well as U.S. aid to Honduran military and police forces, which have been implicated in numerous human rights violations in the country.
Deforestation-free commodities represent a major investment opportunity: Report [01/31/2017]
- Agricultural commodities — especially beef, palm oil, soy, and pulp and paper — have become an increasingly important driver of deforestation over the past couple decades, particularly in the tropics. - While there’s a lot of work left to be done, WEF and TFA 2020 see momentum building toward a sea change in the global supply chain for these much-in-demand commodities. - Overcoming the barriers to sustainable production of the big four commodities and supporting the transition to deforestation-free supply chains represents an investment opportunity that will “roughly total US$ 200 billion annually” by 2020, per the report.
A possible undiscovered orangutan population in Borneo? [01/31/2017]
- With funding from National Geographic we are retracing the footsteps of Henry Cushier Raven, a specimen collector who travelled extensively in East Kalimantan, Indonesia between 1912 and 1914. - We want to know which species Raven found and whether we can still find these species today. - In April 2016, we already covered the Berau and East Kutai parts of Raven’s journey. This is the story of his Mahakam travels. - The story is published in four parts. This is the final part.
‘Revolutionary’ new biodiversity maps reveal big gaps in conservation [01/27/2017]
- The research uses the chemical signals of tree communities to reveal their different survival strategies and identify priority areas for protection. - Currently, the Carnegie Airborne Observatory’s airplane provides the only way to create these biodiversity maps. But the team is working to install the technology in an Earth-orbiting satellite. - Once launched, the $200 million satellite would provide worldwide biodiversity mapping updated every month.
Politician’s son named a suspect over illegal land clearing in Leuser Ecosystem [01/26/2017]
- Last October, authorities found three men and an excavator digging a canal through the Singkil Swamp Wildlife Reserve. They appeared to be preparing the land for oil palm cultivation. - This week, the police announced that the son of the head of a local parliament is a suspect in the case. - The reserve lies within the Leuser Ecosystem, the only place where elephants, tigers, rhinos and orangutans still coexist in the wild.
Want to be a responsible palm oil firm? Follow these reporting guidelines [01/25/2017]
- Ceres, Oxfam, Rainforest Alliance and WWF are among the groups behind the guidelines. - Some of the guidelines describe how companies should map and name their suppliers, disclosing the locations of their own operations as well as those of the firms they buy from. - How companies can ensure they aren’t grabbing community lands are another focus of the guidelines.
Scientists ‘impressed and delighted’ by animals found in remnant forests [01/20/2017]
- A new study finds promising conservation value in forest corridors along rivers in Sumatra’s plantation-dominated landscape. - But government regulations require areas of forest that border rivers — called “riparian” forests – be left standing to safeguard water quality for downstream communities. - In the first study of its kind conducted in the tropics, researchers set camera traps in riparian forests through tree plantations near Tesso Nilo National Park. They found a significant mammal presence, including tapirs, tigers, bears, pangolins, and elephants. - The researchers say their findings indicate Sumatra’s forest remnants could help keep wildlife populations afloat in areas with lots of habitat loss. However, they caution that these corridors are threatened by lax regulation enforcement, and can only work in tandem with larger forested areas.
‘Running out of time’: 60 percent of primates sliding toward extinction [01/19/2017]
- The assessment of 504 primate species found that 60 percent are on track toward extinction, and the numbers of 75 percent are going down. - Agricultural expansion led to the clearing of primate habitat three times the size of France between 1990 and 2010, impinging on the range of 76 percent of apes and monkeys. - By region, Madagascar and Southeast Asia have the most species in trouble. Nearly 90 percent of Madagascar’s more than 100 primates are moving toward extinction. - Primates also face serious threats from hunting, logging and ranching.
HSBC financing tied to deforestation, rights violations for palm oil in Indonesia [01/18/2017]
- HSBC has helped several palm oil companies accused of community rights violations and illegal deforestation pull together billions in credit and bonds, according to research by Greenpeace. - The bank has policies that require its customers to achieve RSPO certification by 2018 and prohibiting the bank from ‘knowingly’ engaging with companies that don’t respect sustainability laws and regulations. - Greenpeace contends that HSBC, as one of the world’s largest banks, should commit to a ‘No deforestation, no peat, no exploitation’ policy and should hold its customers accountable to the same standard.
Indonesian government challenges another green group over freedom of information request [01/17/2017]
- Indonesian NGOs are making increasing use of the country’s freedom of information law to gain access to data pertaining to the management of the country’s natural resources. - In one ongoing case, Forest Watch Indonesia is trying to force the Ministry of Land and Spatial Planning to release in full the maps of oil palm companies’ concessions, known as HGUs. - The ministry argues that releasing the names of the companies that hold the concessions is a violation of the firms’ privacy.
How local elites earn money from burning land in Indonesia [01/16/2017]
- Members of political parties and local figures are organizing farmers to burn land for sale to a variety of large and small buyers, a new study shows. - These elites pocket most of the profits from this destructive and illegal activity. Village officials who administer land documents and the workers who carry out the burning also receive a cut. - For the fires to stop, the study says, these actors must be disempowered through law and policy.
A trip on Borneo’s Mahakam River in search of forgotten wildlife [01/15/2017]
- With funding from National Geographic we are retracing the footsteps of Henry Cushier Raven, a specimen collector who travelled extensively in East Kalimantan, Indonesia between 1912 and 1914. - We want to know which species Raven found and whether we can still find these species today. - In April 2016, we already covered the Berau and East Kutai parts of Raven’s journey. This is the story of his Mahakam travels. - The story is published in four parts. This is part II.
Nutella manufacturer: Palm oil in product is ‘safe’, despite cancer concerns [01/15/2017]
- In May 2016, the European Food Safety Authority recommended limitations on the consumption of foods containing several compounds found commonly in products that use refined palm oil, such as baby formula. - The refining process results in the formation of several potentially carcinogenic esters in many types of vegetable oils, but the average levels in palm oils and fats were substantially higher than those found in other types of oil. - Ferrero, the Italian manufacturer of Nutella, said that the palm oil its product contains is processed at ‘controlled temperatures’ and is ‘safe.’
New study analyzes biggest threats to Southeast Asian biodiversity [01/12/2017]
- Deforestation rates in Southeast Asia are some of the highest anywhere on Earth, and the rate of mining is the highest in the tropics. - The region also has a number of hydropower dams under construction, and consumption of species for traditional medicines is particularly pronounced. - A new study published in the journal Ecosphere analyzing all of the threats to Southeast Asia’s biodiversity concludes that the region “may be under some of the greatest levels of biotic threat.”
Korean company bans forest clearing for Indonesian palm oil concessions [01/12/2017]
- Korindo came under scrutiny last year when U.S.-based environmental group Mighty Earth published a damning report on their practice of burning to clear land. - The report “Burning Paradise” was published on September 1, 2016 and alleged that Korindo had caused 30,000 hectares of deforestation and an estimated 894 fire hotspots since 2013. - The illegal, yet commonly-used practice of companies burning land to clear it, leads to an annual haze from forest and peatland fires.
Newscast #9: Joel Berger on overlooked ‘edge species’ that deserve conservation [01/10/2017]
- We’re also joined by Andrew Whitworth, a conservation and biodiversity scientist with the University of Glasgow, who shares with us some of the recordings he’s made in the field of a critically endangered bird called the Sira Curassow. - Plus: China to close its domestic ivory markets, Cheetah population numbers crash, and more in the top news. - Happy New Year to all of our faithful listeners!
Following in Raven’s Footsteps: 100 years of wildlife loss on Borneo [01/06/2017]
- With funding from the National Geographic Society we are retracing the footsteps of Henry Cushier Raven, a specimen collector who travelled extensively in East Kalimantan, Indonesia between 1912 and 1914. - We want to know which species Raven found and whether we can still find these species today. - In April 2016, we already covered the Berau and East Kutai parts of Raven’s journey. This is the story of his Mahakam travels. - The story is published in four parts. This is part 1.
What to expect for rainforests in 2017 [01/04/2017]
- Will deforestation continue to rise in Brazil? - Will Indonesia continue on a path toward forestry reform? - What effect will Donald Trump have on rainforest conservation?
Local NGOs: Ecosystem services, not orangutans, key to saving Leuser [01/04/2017]
- Sumatra’s Leuser ecosystem covers 2.6 million hectares, encompasses two mountain ranges, three lakes, nine river systems and three national parks. It boasts 10,000 species of plant and 200 species of mammal — dozens found nowhere else on earth. Of the 6,000 orangutans left in Sumatra, 90 percent live in Leuser. - But the region has been under siege by the government of Aceh, which has repeatedly tried to sell off concessions to oil palm companies that encroach on the borders of conserved lands. - While international environmental NGOs have focused on saving Leuser’s orangutans, local NGOs have had far more success focusing on the US $23 billion in ecosystem services provided by the preserve — including flood prevention, water supply, agro-ecology, tourism, fire prevention, carbon sequestration, and more. - Many rural Sumatrans see orangutans not as important endangered species to be protected, but rather as garden and farm pests. Local organizers like Rudi Putra and T.M. Zulfikar are building a homegrown Sumatran conservation movement that relies heavily on litigation over the potential loss of Leuser’s ecosystem services.
Sudden sale may doom carbon-rich rainforest in Borneo [01/02/2017]
- Forest Management Unit 5 encompasses more than 101,000 hectares in central Sabah, a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo. - The area’s steep slopes and rich forests provide habitat for the Bornean orangutan and other endangered species and protect watersheds critical to downstream communities. - Conservation groups had been working with the government and the concession holder to set up a concept conservation economy on FMU5, but in October, the rights were acquired by Priceworth, a wood product manufacturing company.
The year in tropical rainforests: 2016 [12/31/2016]
- After 2015’s radical advancements in transparency around tropical forests between improved forest cover monitoring systems and corporate policies on commodity sourcing, progress slowed in 2016 with no major updates on tropical forest cover, resistance from several governments in releasing forest data, and some notable backtracking on zero deforestation commitments. - But even without the pan-tropical updates, we know that deforestation increased sharply in the Brazilian Amazon, which accounts for the world’s largest area of tropical forest. - Low commodity prices may have bought some relief for forests.
Top climate stories to watch in 2017 [12/29/2016]
- Renewable energy use has never been higher — but on the other hand, 2016 brought with it news of record fossil fuel consumption, as well. - Meanwhile, the Paris Climate Agreement went into force on November 4, far sooner than anyone ever expected, signaling a new era of international climate action — but just a few days later, the U.S., the second-largest emitter in the world, elected a new president who has called global warming a hoax and pledged to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement as soon as possible. - Here, in no particular order, are some of the top stories to keep an eye on in the new year.
Consumer pressure to ditch deforestation begins to reach Indonesia’s oil palm plantation giants [12/27/2016]
- Four of Indonesia’s top 10 oil palm growers have improved sustainability practices due to pressure from buyers since June 2015. - But not all have changed their ways. At least one grower has found new customers that haven’t promised to eliminate practices like deforestation from their supply chains. - Several major palm oil users with strong sustainability policies continue to buy from the worst of these 10 growers.
Indonesia’s rich list stacked with palm oil billionaires [12/26/2016]
- Billionaires aren’t the only ones who have profited from Indonesia’s palm oil industry. - But a high proportion of the nation’s wealthiest citizens owe their fortunes at least in part to the production of the commodity. - It makes sense — Indonesia’s is the world’s top palm oil producer, and it is also one of the most unequal societies.
As accusations fly, paper giant appears to stand by its replanting of burned peat in Sumatra [12/22/2016]
- After the 2015 fire and haze crisis, the Indonesian government barred plantation firms from replanting the peatlands that had burned in their concessions. Instead, the companies were ordered to restore the dried-out peat soil to prevent future fires. - Some agribusinesses, however, are said to be resurrecting their drainage-dependent acacia and oil palm estates in violation of the directive from President Jokowi’s administration. One of them is Asia Pulp & Paper, an arm of the Sinar Mas conglomerate. - APP declined to comment substantively for this article, except to imply that everything it does is in accordance with the rules. But a director in the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry explained that the company had been authorized to replant burned peat with acacia trees because, he said, it would serve to mitigate certain fire risks. - NGOs surveyed by Mongabay rejected the contention that planting peat with drainage-dependent acacia constitutes a valid means of peatland restoration, although some were more understanding of the government’s position than others.
Study maps 187 land conflicts as palm oil expands in Kalimantan [12/20/2016]
- Nearly half of the 187 villages were found to be strongly opposed to oil palm companies. Such a sentiment was highly correlated with communities that depend on forest products for their livelihoods. - In areas that have already undergone or are undergoing forest transformation to oil palm or timber plantations, there were more specific conflicts among local communities and palm oil companies, such as land boundary disputes, perceived lack of consultation, illegal actions by the company, and lack of compensation and broken promises to the affected communities. - Studies like this that count and map the number of natural resource-related conflicts in Kalimantan are highly needed and currently lacking in reliable data.
Palm oil giant defends its deforestation in Gabon, points to country’s ‘right to develop’ [12/19/2016]
- Singapore-headquartered Olam International is the subject of a new report by NGOs Mighty and Brainforest that alleges forest destruction by the company in Gabon. - Olam counters that it is only expanding into Gabon’s least valuable forested lands and that the clearance is necessary for Gabon to pull itself out of poverty. - The debate raises questions about what it means for a country to develop sustainably, and whether deforestation should be seen as a means to that end. - Olam has also released a list of its palm oil suppliers in response to the NGOs’ allegations that the firm is a “black box” that buys and sells palm oil linked to deforestation and human rights abuses.
Companies are underestimating the risks of deforestation in their commodities supply chains [12/16/2016]
- London-based non-profit CDP, formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project, released a report earlier this month, produced on behalf of 365 investors representing $22 trillion in funds, that analyzes data disclosures by 187 companies regarding their deforestation risk management strategies. - Despite the significant share of their income that is dependent on cattle products, palm oil, soy, and timber products, just 42 percent of the companies surveyed by CDP have evaluated their supply chains in order to determine how their growth strategies for the next five years will be impacted by the availability or quality of those raw materials. - In its third annual ranking of what it calls the “Forest 500,” the UK-based think tank Global Canopy Programme (GCP) determined that, given the current rate of progress, ambitious deforestation targets for 2020 and 2030 such as those committed to by the Consumer Goods Forum and signatories to the New York Declaration on Forests, aren’t likely to be met.
Green groups raise red flags over Jokowi’s widely acclaimed haze law [12/09/2016]
- Indonesian President Joko Widodo last week codified a much-praised moratorium on peatland development into law. - Though widely reported as a permanent ban on clearing and draining the archipelago’s carbon-rich peat swamps, the prohibition will only last until the government finishes mapping and zoning the nation’s peatlands, although stronger protections have been put in place. - Norway praised the policy’s legalization, announcing it would release $25 million to support the sustainable management of Indonesia’s peatlands. - Some environmental groups tell Mongabay that the regulation pays insufficient heed to the scientific evidence of what is required to prevent the wholesale collapse of peatland ecosystems.
Australian retailers accused of misusing the RSPO’s label on their palm oil products [12/05/2016]
- Major retailers Woolworths and Coles say their own-brand products have been “certified sustainable” by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. - However, Palm Oil Investigations, an Australian NGO, has called the legitimacy of those claims into question. - The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil has yet to act on the allegations. A spokesperson pointed out that no one had raised a formal complaint. - The NGO says the roundtable must do a better job monitoring the claims of its members.
‘We need more knowledge and more control’: Palm oil expands in Ecuador [11/30/2016]
- In 2012, the government simplified procedure to obtain permission to plant oil palm in areas less than 50 hectares. - This simplified process may have led to a ramp-up in palm oil expansion in recent years, with smaller plantations being cleared from forest near large, established oil palm plantations. - Local governments do not monitor or have much control over land-use. In the province Orellana, the Ministry of Environment has only one forest control point for a province 21,730 square kilometers in size.
Newscast #6: Carl Safina on marine conservation and Trump [11/29/2016]
- We also welcome to the show Mongabay founder and CEO Rhett Butler, who fills us in on the origins of Mongabay and where it’s going in 2017. - If you’ve got a question about environmental science and conservation, we’d be happy to answer it for you! Just drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll answer your question in a future episode of the Mongabay Newscast. - And don’t forget, you can find all of our podcast episodes on Stitcher, TuneIn, iTunes, Google Play, and RSS.
How citizen science is transforming river management in Malaysian Borneo (commentary) [11/29/2016]
- For thousands of years Sabah’s Kinabatangan River has wound its way down from the hills of Borneo’s northern interior through some of the planet’s richest lowland rainforests before flowing into the Coral Triangle. - Crises in ecosystems unfold over time. In the late twentieth century, events up-river brought massive change in the Kinabatangan’s catchment. - It is the growth of citizen science around systematic water quality measurement, carefully targeted (by indigenous knowledge) in the places and moments that matter in complex rapidly changing watersheds, that appears to offer the best way to identify and tackle the causes and to guide river restoration. - This post is a commentary based largely on presentations at Sabah’s International Heart of Borneo and Ramsar conferences in November 2016 — the views expressed are those of the author.
Conservation in oil palm is possible (commentary) [11/25/2016]
- The oil palm sector is often blamed as one of the biggest threats in tropical conservation. Much of the critique of the sector is justified. - Whereas most oil palm concessions are associated with the destruction of orangutan habitat, at least one company, PT KAL in West Kalimantan, stands out for protecting some 150 orangutans in its concession. - Important lessons are to be learned from this case. - This post is a commentary — the views expressed are those of the author.
Palm oil culprits apprehended in the Leuser Ecosystem. Who sent them? [11/23/2016]
- Three men and an excavator were found digging a drainage canal through the Singkil Swamp Wildlife Reserve, the region’s largest, deepest and most intact peatland. - The head of the Aceh Natural Resources Conservation Agency says the men appeared to be clearing the land for oil palm, which is illegal in the area. - The arrest comes at a critical time for the broader Leuser Ecosystem, with a Jakarta court set to rule on a challenge to Aceh province’s controversial land-use plan next week. The allegedly illegal plan makes no mention of Leuser.
American retirement funds contribute to deforestation and climate change [11/22/2016]
- Last July, two US-based NGOs, Friends of the Earth and As You Sow, launched a “transparency tool,” called Deforestation Free Funds, to help investors find information on which global mutual funds have holdings in palm oil producers with links to deforestation. - As of June 2016, Friends of the Earth and As You Sow said in a statement, U.S. mutual funds had a net investment of more than $5 billion dollars in palm oil producers. - A focus of the groups’ campaign is one of the largest investment firms in the U.S., TIAA (formerly known as TIAA-CREF), which manages retirement funds for many academic and cultural institutions, from museums and universities to nonprofits and unions.
Small-scale farming threatens rainforests in Sumatra [11/22/2016]
- A recent study probed the ecology of small farms in Sumatra, showing that small-scale farming can be just as damaging to the environment as large plantations. - Small-scale coffee growers in Latin America have sustainable practices because they work in cooperatives with direct access to markets for rainforest-certified products. - For smallholder farming of oil palm and rubber to become sustainable in Indonesia, farmers will need to form similar cooperatives and grow rainforest-certified crops.
69m people breathed toxic smoke from 2015 Indonesian fires: study [11/22/2016]
- The study was led by a researcher from Newcastle University and published in the journal Scientific Reports. - The findings support an earlier study which concluded that 100,300 people are likely to have died prematurely as a result of last year’s fires. - Researchers said they could have drawn more reliable conclusions if local hospitalization data had been available, but such data is scarce.
Peruvian Melka group palm oil production company withdraws from RSPO [11/22/2016]
- The withdrawal letter was sent via email on October 12. - Juan Carlos Ruiz Molleda, the complainants’ lawyer, points out that the Melka Group “have unmasked their true self” by withdrawing from the group of companies that advocated sustainable practices. - 38,000 hectares are in dispute with Plantaciones de Pucallpa SAC and Andean migrant farmers, according to Roberto Guimaraes, president of the Federation of Native Communities of Ucayali (Feconau). - Satellite images show that the Melka Group company cleared more than 5,000 hectares of forest inside indigenous territory between 2010 and 2015.
If you’re in the U.S., your ramen noodles might become a lot safer for forests [11/21/2016]
- Scott Paul, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Forest Heroes Campaign, says that instant ramen noodles contain more palm oil by weight than any other product on the market. That means that ramen noodles are having a major impact on rainforests. - But it looks like that’s about to change, at least when it comes to ramen in the U.S. In September, AAK, a producer of “value added vegetable oils” headquartered in Sweden, acquired California Oils, a major supplier of palm oil in the United States. - AAK subsequently announced that its No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation (NDPE) palm oil sustainability policy will be applied to its new subsidiary — which supplies palm oil to the manufacturers of as much as 84 percent of the ramen noodles sold in the U.S.
Major Congo Basin forest conference convenes in Rwanda [11/21/2016]
- The 85-member consortium has met annually since it was first launched in 2002 by then-US Secretary of State Colin Powell. - Congo Basin forests hold more than 25 billion tons of carbon and thousands of plant and animal species. - As the human population grows from the current figure of around 30 million people, more solutions are required to harmonize their needs with those of the plant and animal life that share the space.
Seven African countries pledge to protect their tropical forests from unsustainable oil palm development [11/16/2016]
- Together, those seven countries comprise more than 250 million hectares (about 618 million acres) of tropical forest, 70 percent of the tropical forests in Africa and 13 percent of the world’s total. - Global demand for palm oil has skyrocketed over the past several years, and Africa is expected to be the next big expansion opportunity for the industry. - Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, co-chair of the International Indigenous People’s Forum on Climate Change, the indigenous peoples’ caucus to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said the declaration would protect the livelihoods of local and indigenous communities.
Mongabay Newscast episode 5: UN Climate talks and the impending Trump presidency, conserving salamanders in Mexico, and more [11/15/2016]
- Catanoso wrote a piece for Mongabay, published last Friday, about the response from delegates at the UN climate talks when they learned of Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election. Delegates were “aghast and shaken, with emotions ranging from defiance to wishful encouragement,” Catanoso writes. - Mongabay Newscast producer Erik Hoffner also joins us to answer a reader question about efforts to protect critically endangered Ambystoma salamanders in the state of Michoacan, Mexico. - All that, plus the top news and inspiration from nature’s frontline!
Industry, NGOs agree to single approach to eliminating deforestation from palm oil supply chain [11/10/2016]
- Prior to this announcement, there were essentially two competing methodologies for determining what constitutes a “High Carbon Stock” landscape and setting rules for conversion of land to oil palm plantations in a sustainable manner: the High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA), and another known as HCS+. - But now the HCS Convergence Working Group, which includes major players in the palm oil industry as well as NGOs, announced in Bangkok on Tuesday that they will be releasing a revised HCSA toolkit that represents convergence between the HCSA and HCS+ approaches. - Tropical forests, where most oil palm is grown due to the fact that the humid tropics are the species’ natural range, sequester large amounts of carbon and harbor much of Earth’s biodiversity, in addition to providing livelihoods, food, and medicine to millions of indigenous peoples and local communities.
For the palm oil industry, ‘engagement’ means turning a blind eye to deforestation [11/07/2016]
- Regardless of who they trade with, palm oil producers should be hearing the same message: clearing rainforests doesn’t pay. Yet that message is not getting through. - Greenpeace has just concluded an investigation into environmental and human rights abuses in the global palm oil trade. What we uncovered incriminates almost all of the major palm oil traders. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Parents who say Indonesia’s haze killed their children testify in citizen suit [11/04/2016]
- Indonesian President Joko Widodo has promised to prosecute companies linked to last year’s fire and haze disaster. - In July, though, the Riau Police terminated investigations into 15 companies the environment ministry had listed in connection with the burning. - At least two lawsuits challenging the dropping of the cases are now underway.
Are global commodities producers living up to their climate promises? [11/03/2016]
- A new report by Amsterdam-based research think tank Climate Focus and a coalition of 12 other research organizations and civil society groups examines the progress made so far on implementing supply chain commitments to meet the second of ten goals laid out in the 2014 New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF). - Goal two of the NYDF calls on companies to end deforestation associated with the production of key agricultural commodities. Halting deforestation is one of the key tactics embedded in the Paris Climate Agreement for drawing down the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. - The Climate Focus report analyzes 600 companies involved in the production of the “big four” globally traded commodities — cattle, palm oil, soy, and wood — and finds that progress is being made, but calls the pace of progress too gradual.
Higher incomes driving Indonesian smallholders to oil palm and rubber [11/03/2016]
- Interviews with more than 460 farming households led the scientists to conclude that farmers making the switch to a single crop chasing better incomes. - More than 40 scientists from Indonesia, Switzerland, New Zealand and Germany were involved in the research. - The research is part of the EFForTS project, based at the University of Göttingen in Germany.
Complaint against a palm oil company in Papua held in limbo by RSPO [11/02/2016]
- In April, an NGO complained to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil about a plantation firm alleged to have grabbed indigenous land in Indonesia’s Papua province. - The official grievance has yet to be accepted or rejected by the RSPO’s Complaints Panel, even after more than six months. - Observers have noted that an executive from the parent company of the firm in question also sits on the RSPO’s Board of Directors. The roundtable denies that there is any conflict of interest. - The RSPO is the world’s largest association for ethical palm oil production, whose members consist of palm oil companies, banks and NGOs that choose to join.
Small oil palm plantations are having big impacts on Peru rainforest [10/28/2016]
- The central Amazon region of Peru is experiencing some of the country’s highest levels of forest loss. - Analysis by a monitoring team found that expansion of small and medium plantations is largely responsible for this loss in a northern portion of Huánuco Department. - Previous analyses by the team found that cattle ranching is a big deforestation driver in other parts of the region. - Much of the expansion of cattle pasture and oil palm plantations is taking place on land not zoned for agriculture, according to the analysts.
RSPO loses key backer in Australia: ‘We just can’t trust them anymore’ [10/28/2016]
- Palm Oil Investigations said it would cease to promote palm oil certified as sustainable by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. - The watchdog had pushed some of Australia’s biggest corporate users of palm oil to buy only that which the RSPO had certified as ethically produced. - The RSPO is the world’s largest association for sustainable palm oil production.
Logged but not out: Altered landscapes important for conservation [10/26/2016]
- A study conducted by scientists from Malaysia and England looked at biodiversity in untouched and human-altered habitats on the island of Borneo. - When the researchers looked at large areas, the biodiversity of big mammals in logged forests closely matched what they found in old-growth rainforest. - They concluded that logged forests have substantial value in supporting biodiversity, and these areas should figure into conservation plans.
Company poised to destroy critical orangutan habitat in breach of Indonesia’s moratorium [10/24/2016]
- Sungai Putri is a beautiful natural forest area in West Kalimantan that is home to between 750 and 1750 orangutans. - This makes it the third largest population of this Critically Endangered species in the province. Sungai Putri has extensive deep peat areas, up to 14.5 meters deep in places. - A company named PT Mohairson Pawan Khatulistiwa apparently plans to clear more than half of their license area for conversion into an industrial tree plantation.
More than 20 labor law violations by Indofood alleged in Indonesia [10/14/2016]
- NGOs are calling for a pair of Indofood subsidiaries to be suspended from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. - The company has denied the allegations of human rights abuses on its plantations in the archipelagic Southeast Asian country, the world’s top palm oil producer. - Indofood is an arm of the Salim Group and one of the world’s largest palm oil companies.
Airbus to marshal its satellites against deforestation [10/12/2016]
- Starling is a new service developed by Airbus, The Forest Trust and SarVision. - Palm oil suppliers can use it to verify their compliance with their customers’ zero-deforestation policies. - Starling, which will be sold to companies, is meant as a compliment to Global Forest Watch, a publicly available platform that anyone can use to track deforestation in near-real time. - Starling is more powerful than Global Forest Watch, with the ability to see through clouds and zoom in close enough to count the trees.
Scoring palm oil buyers on their sustainability commitments [10/10/2016]
- The scorecard reports the results of WWF’s analysis of 137 retailers, manufacturers, and food service companies from Australia, Canada, Europe, India, Japan, and the United States that collectively use more than six million metric tons of palm oil, 10 percent of all palm oil traded around the globe. - Out of the 137 companies, WWF found that only 78 had made commitments to use 100 certified sustainable palm oil by 2015, while 30 have not made any kind of public commitment whatsoever. - Just 96 companies reported using any certified sustainable palm oil in 2015, the scorecard states.
Fires ravaged forests in Indonesian palm oil giant Astra’s land in 2015 [10/07/2016]
- In September last year, Astra Agro Lestari earned plaudits for issuing a zero-deforestation pledge. - A new Aidenvironment report tracks the company’s progress implementing its commitment. - A major issue is Astra’s policy for preventing fires on its land. Fires raged across its concessions last year, but the firm has not elaborated how it plans to stop burning.
Indonesia’s oil palm plantations are rife with spitting cobras [10/06/2016]
- The Southeast Asian country is the world’s top palm oil producer. It also ranks No. 2 in snakebites globally. - The species of serpent that has spread in Indonesia’s oil palm and rubber plantations is the Sumatran cobra. - There is no available antivenom for Sumatran cobra bites. Plantation workers often die from them.
139 scientists shoot down ‘misleading’ reports from Malaysia peat congress [10/04/2016]
- The researchers issued an open letter in response to certain newspaper articles about the 15th International Peat Congress, held recently in Malaysia, a top palm oil producer. - One article erroneously portrays an IPC executive as endorsing new studies finding drainage-based peatland agriculture to be not necessarily unsustainable, when the executive made no such comments. - More broadly, the articles in question portray as fringely held the view that drainage-based peatland development is unsustainable, when in fact it is backed by an extensive body of research and held by a large number of scientists, not just by “militant environmentalists” and “green NGOs” as implied by the articles. - The articles were published in The Jakarta Post and The Borneo Post.
Proposed sale of timber from palm oil concession sparks alarm in Liberia [09/21/2016]
- News that Liberia’s forestry authority was considering allowing the sale of timber logged from oil palm concessions – called “conversion timber” — was met with opposition by international and local conservationists. - Critics say this path could give industrial agriculture companies like palm oil producers a way to get around forest preservation measures and their own zero-deforestation policies. Company representatives deny these claims. - Liberia has stepped up its environmental regulations in recent years after decades of conflict-fuelled deforestation and recent international pressure to keep its trees in the ground to help stave off climate change. - A conversion timber request by palm oil producer Golden Veroleum Liberia was ultimately denied by the government, but conservationists worry this is only the beginning.
SE Asian governments dismiss finding that 2015 haze killed 100,300 [09/20/2016]
- On Monday, researchers from Harvard and Columbia universities reported that 100,300 people in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore are likely to have died prematurely from haze produced by last year’s devastating agricultural fires in Indonesia. - Government officials from the three countries cast doubt on the findings. - One of the study’s authors suggested the figure was actually conservative, as it only accounted for adults and for deaths that could occur within one year of exposure to the haze.
Here’s how much forest we’ll have to destroy to feed our growing junk food addiction [09/19/2016]
- A key ingredient in junk food is vegetable oil, and 60 percent of edible vegetable oil is produced from oil palm and soybeans — crops that are currently associated with massive deforestation in Southeast Asia and South America, respectively. - A team of researchers from Princeton University, Adelaide University in Australia, and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore estimated the amount of land — and the potential amount of forests — required to produce the palm and soybean oil used in junk foods. - We will need an estimated 17.1 million metric tons of vegetable oil for junk food production by 2050, which would require something like an additional 5 million to 9.3 million hectares (12.3 million to 23 million acres) of soybean land and about 0.5 to 1.3 million hectares (1.2 million to 3.2 million acres) of additional oil palm land, the team determined.
Liberia land policy a ‘challenge to national development’ [09/14/2016]
- Liberia has struggled to implement comprehensive land policy or laws to address the problems. - In 2009 the government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf set up a now-defunct Land Commission of Liberia to conduct land policy and regulatory reform. - The Liberian Land Rights Act was proposed two years ago but is stalled in the legislature.
Pulp and paper supplier denies draining peat on island near Singapore [09/13/2016]
- Haze-causing fires are continuing to burn in Indonesia, especially in West Kalimantan province on the island of Borneo. - The CEO of PT RAPP, a subsidiary of Indonesia’s second-largest pulp and paper company, said the canals his firm was accused of digging recently in order to drain peat soil for planting were actually meant to serve as reservoirs to aid firefighting in the burned-out concession. - Indonesia’s peatland restoration agency is investigating the company’s activities.
‘A major concern’: plantation-driven deforestation ramps up in Borneo [09/10/2016]
- Researchers analyzed satellite data and historical land cover maps to determine how much forest was cleared for plantations between 1973 and 2015. - In total, they found 18.7 million hectares of old-growth forest was cleared between 1973 and 2015. Of that, they concluded 4.5 to 4.8 million hectares were cleared for plantation expansion – mostly for palm oil production. - They found less plantation-driven deforestation on the Indonesian side than they were expecting, but a big jump from 2005 to 2015. Malaysia has remained relatively constant since the 1970s. - The researchers recommend their findings be used to increase transparency and accountability.
The good, the bad, and the ugly in palm oil (commentary) [09/09/2016]
- A new study quantifies the impact of palm oil on forest cover in Borneo. - The results indicate that the plantation industry was the principle driver of the loss of old-growth forest in Malaysian Borneo. - The good news, at least for Indonesia, is that considerably more oil palm has been developed on land that had been cleared many years previously. - This post is a commentary — the views expressed are those of the authors.
These banks are pumping billions into Southeast Asia’s deforestation [09/08/2016]
- The new Forests and Finance database was launched on Tuesday by a coalition of research and campaign groups. - The data show that in 2010-2015, banks in Asia and the West pumped over $50 billion into Southeast Asian forest-risk companies. - Many banks lack policies to prevent their money from being used to harm the environment. - Even the policies that do appear strong on paper are often of little effect, experts say.
Indonesian government to investigate Korean palm oil giant over burning in Papua [09/07/2016]
- The Indonesian environment ministry said they were sending a team to look into Korindo’s operations in Papua. - A Korindo spokesperson denied that the company had burned land intentionally, suggesting that the fires on its land were the government’s fault, not the company’s. - Environmental campaigners are touring Korea this week to raise awareness about Korindo’s activities in Papua.
Indonesian military plans anti-haze operation in Sumatra [09/02/2016]
- Indonesian daily Kompas reported that military officers on Thursday used a speedboat to access a four-hectare fire burning in Simpang Tiga village, Ogan Komering Ilir district. - This week the newly appointed police chief criticized Singaporean law for the latitude it gave the city state to sanction Indonesian citizens complicit in burning land. - The Singapore Environment Council continues to push retailers to remove product lines sourced from companies complicit in wild fires.
Korean palm oil firm burned large tracts of forestland in Indonesia, NGOs allege [09/01/2016]
- A new report by environmental group Mighty and partners highlights rainforest destruction and fires on land belonging to the conglomerate Korindo in Indonesia’s Papua province. - Satellite images and hotspot data show the spread of fire closely mirrors land development in the company’s oil palm concessions, an indication it used fire to clear land cheaply. - Burning land to clear it is illegal for companies in Indonesia, but many firms have done so anyway, fueling the annual forest and peatland fires that blanket the region in a choking haze.