Strong policies, certification key to sustainable oil palm production
©FAO/Ami Vitale19 September 2018, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia - This week the Malaysian Palm Oil Council is hosting the 5th International Palm Oil Sustainability Conference, a two-day event that provides palm oil industry stakeholders with updates on current and emerging trends and sustainability developments while focusing on the potential impact of palm oil and agriculture on the environment and the climate, as well as on wildlife conservation and deforestation.
Palm oil is a high-yielding and highly profitable source of vegetable oil that has seen a growing demand and a large increase in global production in the last 30 years, the largest producers being Malaysia and Indonesia. While economically important for producing countries, the expansion of its cultivation has been associated with deforestation, loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services and contributions to greenhouse gas emissions.
The sustainability of palm oil is inherently linked to natural resource governance within a country, and land tenure security and respect for customary rights are crucial.
“Strengthening and enforcement of government regulations on forest conversion and palm oil concession allocations are necessary for eliminating forest conversion, and certification schemes should become more inclusive of smallholder producers,” said Eva Müller, Director, Forestry Policy and Resources Division of FAO. “Improving smallholder production, where yields are currently often below average, can also help increase agricultural production without deforestation.”
A number of important global political agreements and commitments are relevant to land use issues surrounding forests and palm oil, as they aim to halt deforestation in the coming years. These include the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as the United Nations Strategic Plan on Forests (UNFF); the Aichi Biodiversity Targets 2020 (CBD); the Paris Agreement on Climate Change (UNFCCC); and the New York Declaration on Forests. In addition, “deforestation-free” and oil palm certification initiatives in the private sector aim to ensure consumers that oil palm is not produced at the expense of forests.