RSPO bar raised for palm-oil sustainability tick 19 Nov 15;

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a global body of plantation companies, refiners, consumers and environmental groups that advocates for socially, environmentally and economically sustainable palm oil, has decided to set the bar higher in defining sustainable practices.

The organization is finalizing the details of tough new sustainability standards under broad criteria that include bans on deforestation, fires and peatland planting as well as rules relating to carbon emissions, human rights and transparency.

“We plan to launch this initiative at our annual conference next year,” RSPO co-chairperson Biswaranjan Sen said at the RSPO’s 13th annual conference in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday.

About 800 delegates from around 50 countries attended the conference and together mounted this stronger campaign for sustainable palm oil, only a few weeks after the worst-ever forest fires and haze crisis hit Indonesia and badly affected Malaysia and Singapore.

Chen Ying, a delegate from China, the world’s largest importer of palm oil, noted there had been an increasing awareness among industries and consumers in China around the importance of socially and environmentally sustainable palm oil.

She presented at the conference guidelines for overseas investment in sustainable palm-oil production put together by Chinese companies. The document is by and large modeled on the principles and criteria used by the RSPO for its certification scheme since 2008.

“Our regional objective is to achieve a 100 percent market uptake of certified sustainable pam oil in Europe, 50 percent in Indonesia and Malaysia, 30 percent in India and 10 percent in China by 2020,” RSPO Secretary General Datuk Darrel Webber added.

Ariane Louwaege of the Belgian Alliance for Sustainable Palm Oil confirmed that the EU as a whole had been committed to 100 percent sourcing of sustainable palm oil by 2020, and that several countries, such as Britain, may even achieve it much earlier.

“We in Europe recognize only sustainable palm oil as certified under the RSPO principles and criteria,” Louwaege noted.

Meanwhile, Indonesia and Malaysia, which together account for 85 percent of global palm-oil usage, are still struggling to realign their respective sustainability standards in light of the new unified certification scheme.

The principles of sustainable management promoted and assessed by the RSPO in its certification process include such elements as transparency, legal and regulatory compliance, best production practices, environmental responsibility and a commitment to local community development.

The RSPO reported that as of Oct. 12, 1 million tons, or 20 percent, of global palm-oil production had been certified as sustainable and 50 percent of that volume was derived from Indonesia. (vin)(+)

Three villages achieve fire-free title
The Jakarta Post 19 Nov 15;

Residents of Kuala Panduk, Petodaan and Segamai in Riau province managed to prevent peatland fires from occurring in their areas this year and their communities have consequently been named “fire-free” villages.

For their achievement, each village received a total of Rp 100 million (US$7,700) in cash from PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP) to be used for the improvement of infrastructure.

The three villages, alongside six others in Teluk Meranti and Pelalawan districts, were involved in the Fire-free Village Program initiated by RAPP with the Pelalawan regency administration. Evaluation took place from July 28 until Oct. 15 this year.

“The three villages successfully maintained zero percent land and forest fires during the assessment period,” said RAPP managing director Tony Wenas, during the prize-giving ceremony in Pekanbaru on Wednesday.

Global palm oil conference highlights smallholders

Vincent Lingga, The Jakarta Post 21 Nov 15;

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a global body of plantation companies, refiners, consumers and green groups, that promotes the development of socially, environmentally and economically sustainable palm oil, concluded its 13th annual conference here on Thursday by highlighting the role of smallholders.

Around 800 delegates from 45 countries who attended the three-day RSPO meeting acknowledged the important role of smallholders in Indonesia and Malaysia, who account for around 40 percent of the global palm oil output of 60 million tons.

While the majority of participants were delegates from big plantation companies, green NGOs and civil society organizations, they realized that the campaign for sustainable palm oil would never fully achieve its objective if smallholders were not educated and empowered to meet all the principles and criteria of social and environmental sustainability.

“I have a dream that someday in the future both national and international markets and consumers in general will know that all commodities coming from my regency have been produced by companies and smallholders in a sustainable manner,” Seruyan Regent Sudarsono told the meeting.

Seruyan regency and Sabah state in Malaysia are the first sub-national govenrments to adopt RSPO’s jurisdictional approch to develop sustainable palm oil, a model of rural development that improves the welfare of the rural poor through higher productivity but without damaging the environment.

Indonesia and Malaysia account for around 85 percent of the world’s palm oil production, supplying 40 percent of the global vegetable oil needs, according to the Rome-based United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Indonesia, as the world’s largest producer, has approximately 10.5 million-hectars of oil palm estate, of which 40 percent or 4.6 million ha is currently owned by smallholders.

Sudarsono said that the Seruyan administration, in cooperation with NGO Inobu, an affiliate of the Earth Innovation Institute, is presently conducting a comprehensive census of palm oil farmers, to gather complete data on both land status and the main problems faced in meeting the requirements of sustainability.

“We hope to complete data collection by next year so that we can start addressing such issues as legality, deforestation, land conflict, peat land destruction and eventually advance to sustainability certification programs,” Sudarsono added.

South Sumatra Governor Alex Noerdin, who also attended the meeting, announced that his administration was also finalizing preparations to adopt a jurisdictional approach for oil palm estates in the province.

Different from the previous program of targeting sustainability certification at individual plantations, a jurisdictional approach includes all the players in the industry, from multinational plantation owners down to the smallest of smallholders.

“When a local government agrees to jurisdictional certification guidelines, local stakeholders are given access to work with regional governments to improve the welfare of smalholders, while encouraging environmental best practices,” RSPO co-chairman Biswaranjan Sen noted.

“The RSPO jurisdictional sustainability approach is not dissimilar to the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil [ISPO] program as both schemes promote the principles of best farming practices, transparency, legal and regulatory compliance, environmental responsibility and local community development,” Sudarsono noted.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private-sector arm of The World Bank, has also paid considerable attention to palm oil farmers through a joint program with the Musim Mas industry group.

IFC and Musim Mas, one of Indonesia’s largest integrated palm oil industries, have started the Indonesian Palm Oil Development for Smallholders (IPODS) in North Sumatra which plans to train 100,000 independent farmers in the production of sustainable palm oil.

“Of the total, 25,000 will get training in meeting ISPO and RSPO requirements for the certification of their fresh fruit bunches. Our target is for 10,000 smallholders to get certification,” Musim Mas Communications Manager Carolyn Lim said.

Last year, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Agriculture Ministry launched a program called Indonesian Palm Oil Platform (INPOP) designed to enhance the capacity of smallholders in implementing sustainable oil palm farming practices.

Delegates from developed countries, notably the EU, apparently in response to the increasing commitments made to sustainable palm oil production, reaffirmed their pledge to buy or import only certified sustainable palm oil by 2020.

As the most produced and traded vegetable oil in the world, palm oil indeed plays a crucial role in enhancing food security.

And given its big potential as a major source of renewable fuel, palm oil seems to deserve significant attention, especially in Indonesia where this industry directly employs more than 4.7 million workers and generates more than $20 billion in export earnings.

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