The Group of Twenty (G20) Sustainable Vegetable Oil Conference in Bali this week, which will coincide with the Indonesian Palm Oil Conference and Price Outlook 2023 on Nov. 2-4 and the G20 Summit on Nov.15-16, is a good opportunity for Indonesia to enlighten the developed countries about the increasingly important role of palm oil in the global consumption of edible oils and on the sustainability standards of that commodity.
As the world’s largest palm oil producer and the host of the G20 summit, Indonesia should see to it that the discussions and debates at the conference, the first global meeting discussing all kinds of vegetable oils, would not turn into another forum for blaming palm oil plantations as the main culprit of deforestation.
There is the risk of another wave of bashing palm oil for all kinds of environmental ills in view of the upcoming Conference of the Parties (COP) 27, the climate summit of the countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Egypt on Nov. 6-18.
Delegates from developed countries, which have so far been at the forefront in constantly alleging the palm oil industry as main driver of deforestation, may prefer to raise the issue on the implementation of the agreement to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030, which was signed in the COP26 in Glasgow, the United Kingdom, in November 2021.
We have been witnessing how not only the number of arenas has increased enormously, in which the sustainability of palm oil is being discussed; but also the kind of players and the tone of the debates have dramatically changed. Palm oil has increasingly become the subject of different public policy-making processes of developed nations in the field of climate, biodiversity and energy.
The sustainability of palm oil is predominantly treated from an environmentalist perspective and often disqualified in an absolute way as not sustainable. The campaign in developed countries for imposing exclusive and discriminative standards of sustainability for palm oil, while overlooking other vegetable oils, has in some way substantiated the suspicions of trade protectionism in favor of the vegetable oil producers in the temperate zone. They tend to enforce a robust yardstick for palm oil, but they are indifferent to other vegetable oils. This is a showcase of market discrimination.
The reality is, palm oil has the most advanced sustainability standards, whether market-scheme or government mandatory-scheme. The Tropical Forest Alliance (2021) reported that 78 percent palm oil companies assessed already fully comply with No Deforestation, No Peat Development, No Exploitation-NDPE and 5 percent partially implemented it.
Delegates at the Bali conference should engage in productive debates on how to ensure sustainable production of all vegetable oils, notably palm oil, soybean oil, rapeseed, sunflower seed, peanut and cottonseed oils. The aim should be at agreeing on a common framework for sustainability for all vegetable oils. The Council of Oil Palm Producing Countries (CPOPC) is currently developing the framework and should get more buy-ins from other industries.
(Selengkapnya dapat dibaca Majalah Sawit Indonesia, Edisi 133)