Discrimination Still Haunting Palm Oil

JAKARTA — Many people in Indonesia and foreign countries are still discriminating the palm oil as they keep seeing it as the cause of environmental destruction. But in reality, the oil palm plantations are potential to absorb the greenhouse gas emissions. Considering such condition, it is necessary to conduct a rigorous study to reveal the true facts of palm oil.

The Relawan Jaringan Rimbawan (RJR) Policy Research and Advocacy Division Coordinator Petrus Gunadi regretted that the contribution of agricultural sector in the national document on contribution (NDC) of emission reduction based on Paris Agreement is only 0.32 percent of the target set at 29       percent, while the emission reduction in forestry sector and other land uses is set at the highest target at 17.2     percent.

”It’s too burdensome for the forestry sector to realize such target on its own. I’m confident that the palm oil industry has its role in the carbon absorption. But the problem is that until now not many who dare to count on it,” he said during a public discussion on the role of palm oil in the global climate change in Jakarta on Monday, 04 October 2021.

Petrus said that the task of taking inventory of greenhouse gas in the palm oil sector has been stipulated in the presidential instruction (Inpres) No.6/2019 on the national action plan of sustainable oil palm plantations 2019-2024.

Based on the Inpres, the ministry of environment and forestry (KLHK) is assigned to calculate, verify, and report the potential reduction of greenhouse gas emission in the oil palm plantations.

Besides, the agriculture ministry is assigned to increase the financing for the replanting program of oil palm plantations and reduce the greenhouse gas emission in plantations and other land sites.

The ministry of agrarian and spatial planning /the national land agency (BPN) is assigned to increase the use of derelict and degraded lands as a way to reduce the emissions in the oil palm plantations and ensure the legality of oil palm plantations in the forested areas.

But Petrus noted that all of the assignments are not yet fully implemented by the three ministries. He cited as an example the fact that there has been no yet information on the identification of degraded lands in oil palm plantations that can be easily accessed by the general public.  Such identification should be informed to the public, including to the oil palm smallholders’ associations.

Professor of Bogor University of Agriculture’s (IPB) Forestry Faculty, Yanto Santoso said that until now there are still many people who discriminate the palm oil. For example, the food and agriculture organization (FAO) does not categorize palm oil as a forest plant. At home, the KLHK does not allow oil palm plantations at areas of production forests.

The other discriminations against palm oil also include the rejection and revocation of the ministry of environment and forestry regulation No.62/2011 on business license on industrial forests (HTI). The regulation stipulates that the oil palm trees are part of the HTI plants.

According to Yanto, the fact that the oil palm plantations are not included into the list of emission absorbers is a discrimination. Indonesia has oil palm plantations at a total of 16.2 million hectares. But on the other side, the oil plantations at the forested areas are always accused as the cause of deforestation and biodiversity decline.

”Researches conducted by many experts have shown that the oil palm plantations have higher rate of photosynthesis if compared to the tropical forests. The calculations on carbon stocks are also generally different and not fair. The emission absorption should be calculated from the rate of photosynthesis,” he said.

Yanto also denied the accusations that the palm oil is the main cause of global deforestation. Based on data of the European Commission, the main cause of global deforestation, especially in South America, is the expansion of cattle farms at a total area of 58 million hectares, and soybean and corn plantations at a total area of 20.9 million hectares. But the expansion of oil palm plantations only contributes 2.3 percent of the total global deforestation at the size of 5.5 million hectares.

Regulatory chaos

Forest Law Analyst Sadino said that all problems related to the forests and plantations, especially oil palm plantations, and environment in Indonesia are due to the regulatory chaos. As an example, criminal cases in the forestry or plantation sector can be determined based on the government regulations. It should be determined based on the prevailing laws.

”The mistake in determining the criminal cases is continued in the prevailing regulations. Despite being stipulated in laws, such case still leads into multiple interpretations,” he said.

He added that there is no law in Indonesia that bans planting of oil palm trees. It is different from planting marijuana, which is clearly banned by laws. “Therefore, growers, especially smallholders, should not be banned from planting their oil palm trees in forested areas,” he asserted. (*)

Source: KOMPAS | Featured image via CPOPC