INTERVIEW-Sustainable palm oil body eyes broader approach to certification

Fri Sep 11, 2015 11:41am GMT

By Astrid Zweynert

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 11 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Efforts to certify entire districts or provinces as producers of sustainable palm oil could be a game-changer in reducing deforestation, haze and other environmental problems in Southeast Asia, according to a palm oil sustainability body.

Palm oil plantations in the region have tripled in just a decade, driving deforestation, habitat loss and the displacement of communities across Indonesia and Malaysia, the world's largest producers, environmental campaigners say.

Steps to produce more sustainable palm oil have become all the more urgent as parts of Southeast Asia are regularly covered in a blanket of haze due to heavy smoke from "slash and burn" forest fires and smouldering peat in Indonesia, where palm oil companies have large forest concessions.

Sustainable palm oil certification typically targets single plantations or mills that belong to companies or smallholders, but support is growing for land-use planning at a broader level, known as the "jurisdictional approach".

Stefano Savi, global outreach director at the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), said the organisation was working with the government of Sabah, a state in Malaysian Borneo, to develop a system of broader certification.

Sabah, which produces 12 percent of the world's palm oil, has proposed all its production should be RSPO-certified by 2025.

If the plan goes ahead, it would represent the first time a sub-national entity has committed to 100 percent certified palm oil production.

"This is very much in the early stages ... but it's a good step towards a broader approach to certification," Savi told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.   Continued...

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