Kuala Lumpur, 30 July 2014 - The world’s largest palm oil players are jointly funding a comprehensive 12-month study that will:
The study will take a wide-ranging and practical approach, using robust scientific methods to estimate both above and below ground carbon stocks, and carbon emissions resulting from conversion to oil palm plantations. An inclusive, consultative approach will be adopted (working with governments and leading social and developmental economics experts) to help deepen today's understanding of sustainable palm oil.
Malaysian companies IOI Corporation Berhad, Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad and Sime Darby Plantation, Indonesia’s Asian Agri and Musim Mas Group, and global agribusiness groups Cargill and Wilmar International, are funding the study and have committed to adopt the study’s findings in all their operations and supply chains.
The HCS study is a key component of the Sustainable Palm Oil Manifesto, which was signed by oil palm growers Sime Darby Plantation, IOI Corporation Berhad, Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad, Musim Mas Group, and Asian Agri, as well as global palm oil trader Apical and global agribusiness group Cargill. The Manifesto includes a commitment to no deforestation, creating traceable and transparent supply chains, and protecting peat areas, while ensuring economic and social benefits for the local people and communities where oil palm is grown.
To oversee this Study, a Steering Committee has been set up, independently co-chaired by Sir Jonathon Porritt, and Chief Research Scientist from Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Dr John Raison. They are joined by independent economic advisor for the agribusiness sector, Dr James Fry, who will lend his expertise in international commodities to the process.
Leading environmentalist, Sir Jonathon Porritt, said: “Everyone acknowledges just how important it is to have robust methodologies in place to determine exactly what is meant by ‘High Carbon Stock’. This study will help to shed light both on the biophysical and on the socio-economic dimensions of that critical area of enquiry, taking a fully integrated approach in order to address the concerns of all stakeholders, including those of NGOs, local communities, smallholders and governments.”
The Steering Committee comprises delegates from the signatories of the Manifesto, representing key stakeholders in the palm oil value chain, along with Wilmar International which, although not a signatory, has joined the group to co-fund the study. Collectively, members of the Steering Committee have massive experience in palm oil research. They will be applying this expertise to support an independent, systematic and robust scientific process. Observers to this process include the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) who will actively contribute to ensure a transparent, objective and holistic approach. There are plans for discussions with wider stakeholder groups including the RSPO, to help ensure that the results of the study achieve international acceptance and are integrated into RSPO’s existing standards and policies.
Over the next weeks, the Steering Committee will appoint a Technical Committee to further scope the work, and then to assemble two groups of experts to contribute to the HCS study. A team of experts specialising in above-ground biomass, soil carbon, remote sensing and oil palm management will determine methods for estimating carbon stocks on the ground in regions where further oil palm development is likely. Concurrently, a team of socio-economic experts will assess the impact of adopting varying HCS forest thresholds on the developmental needs of local communities and governments in the same regions.
The consultants and the Technical Committee will then work together to integrate the findings and to produce an independent report, which will be finalised following extensive consultation. The report will recommend threshold values for what constitutes HCS forests, taking into account environmental concerns, regional socio-economic contexts, and the practical considerations in developing and managing economically viable oil palm plantations.
Sir Jonathon Porritt said, “The Steering Committee will have a critical role in overseeing this study, building common ground across the entire value chain to help define HCS values and thresholds. This is a highly significant move forward for the palm oil industry, and it should be rapidly emulated by others in the agricultural sector.”
Dr John Raison stated, “In-depth analysis will be needed to define HCS forest thresholds that also take account of both carbon emissions as well as local developmental opportunities. The Technical Committee will conduct an open and transparent process, and will consult widely in developing an independent report that is based on the best available science and practical experience.”
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