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Conservation in palm oil is possible

November 25, 2016

Conservation in palm oil is possible

25 November 2016 / Commentary by Erik Meijaard

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.

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. Oil palm plantations at industrial and small-holder scale have displaced large areas of tropical forest and their increasingly threatened wildlife. As was shown in a recent study on Borneo, the rate at which this happens is still increasing. So what to do?

There are several possible strategies for reducing the impact of the oil palm sector on nature. The favored strategy over the past few decades for many in the environmental sector has been to reject palm oil, with some organizations calling for a total ban on palm oil. Because of the strong public and political support for oil palm development in major producing countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, such bans have remained largely ineffective in slowing the expansion of the industry.

Other organizations have called for more sustainable practices in the industry, such as those prescribed through the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). It remains to be seen whether RSPO certification has resulted in much improved environmental and social practices but the fact that NGOs such as the PanEco Foundation are withdrawing support from RSPO is a concern for the sustainability claims of the platform.

Read more at MONGABAY.

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