Demand for palm oil is rising and is expected to climb further, particularly for use in biodiesel (see below). Biodiesel is promoted as a form of renewable energy that greatly reduces net emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and therefore its use is being touted as a way to decrease the impact of the greenhouse effect and also the possibility of peak oil.However, there is increasing concern from environmental and other NGOs about the social and environmental impacts of the palm oil industry. Large areas of tropical forest are being cleared to make room for the plantations, thus destroying the habitat of a number of endangered species, in particular, the orangutan populations on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. In addition, clearing of tropical forests is one of the leading causes of climate change. In April 2007, Malaysia, one of the major planters and producers of palm oil, expressed concern about the "media campaign" initiated by some NGOs against the increasingly worrying environment impact of the industry : massive destruction of the ecosystem of species like orangutan, badly controlled logging and land-clearing by large timber companies, threatening the livelihood of minority tribes such as the Iban in Sarawak - Borneo island-, (International Herald Tribune, April 16th 2007 : "Malaysia says activists trying to harm palm oil industry by highlighting orangutan woes"). An additional hurdle to controlled logging and land-clearing is that the states of Malaysia (which is a federation)hold - since the country's independence from the United Kingdom (1957) - still exclusive right to policymaking and enforcement on land and immigration matters.
A related issue is the conversion of Indonesian peat bogs into plantations, a practise driven by the global demand for palm oil, hardwood, and paper pulp. Such practises are responsible for 2000 million tonnes of CO2 emitted annually in Indonesia: 600 million tonnes from the decomposition of dry peat, and 1400 million tonnes from fires resulting from the draining of the bogs. Moreover, the plantations are often run by agribusiness companies, and local residents in places like West Papua and Kalimantan are losing out on jobs to migrant workers.
Orangutan experts around the world have unified to recognise that continued development of the palm oil sector, if done unsustainably, is the single greatest threat to the future of orangutans in the wild. The best professional estimates state that if the industry is not regulated then within 12 years we may witness the disappearance of orangutans from the wild. Other species that are critically threatened by disappearance of the forests include the Sumatran tiger and rhinoceros.
- Household brands accused of "cooking the climate" as British government prepares for climate summit, November 8. A Greenpeace investigation reveals how a handful of the UK's best known brands are complicit in the destruction of Indonesia's peat swamp forest to feed an explosion in global demand for palm oil. 
Random facts Edit
- Around 4% of global supply is certified sustainable. (July 2010)
- 80% of palm oil is used for food. It is used in 1 in 10 supermarket products.
- Malaysia and Indonesia account for around 90% of the world’s supply.
- In just one province of Indonesia (Kalimantan), the planned expansion into peatland areas could eventually (over 30 yrs) release up to 1200 million tonnes CO2 – almost twice the UK’s total annual emissions.
- World demand for palm oil is forecast to nearly double from 2000 levels by 2020. This is mainly due to rising food demand, but also due to demand for biofuels, including to meet EU renewable transport fuels targets.
- China is the world’s largest market for palm oil, followed by the EU and India. 
Related topics Edit
- World Rainforest Movement bulletin on Biofuels/Palm Oil
- Statement from Latin American NGOs on Biofuels
- Orangutan Film Protection Project
- Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil
- Friends of the Earth
- Palm Oil: An Environmentalist's Perspective
- Ape Alliance
- Download the Latest UNEP/UNESCO report "The Last Stand of the Orangutan"
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