The palm oil industry, which is regularly accused of being a major contributor to climate change, wants to develop a universally accepted measurement of the environmental impact of palm oil production.
Witjaksono Darmosarkoro, director of the state-run Indonesian Oil Palm Research centre (PPKS), said it was inevitable that agricultural activities would create carbon emissions, which contribute to global warming.
However, the sector was also responsible for removing some carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by planting new trees and there was a need for a clear measurement on the net effects of the industry in terms of carbon emissions, he said.
“Activities in the palm oil sector must be measurable, reportable and verifiable,” Witjaksono said on Monday, ahead of the International Conference on Oil Palm and the Environment in Bali from Feb. 23 to Feb. 25.
Palm oil stake holders would begin discussing the issue at the conference, which will be attended by government officials, palm oil producers and scientists, Witjaksono said.
Jean-Guy Bertault, regional director for Southeast Asian island nations at Cirad, a French agricultural research centre, said there were many assumptions about carbon emissions from the palm oil industry.
Each country, palm oil producer and non-government organization has their own methodology to calculate the ecological, social and economic impacts of palm oil production, Bertault explained.
“How to protect biodiversity as well as how to use it economically? No one could answer that question, since everyone is using various methodologies,” Bertault said.
Environmental campaign groups such as Greenpeace blame the palm oil industry for driving deforestation, contributing to global climate change and endangering rare species such as orangutans.
Indonesia is the world’s biggest producer of palm oil, which is used to make everything from soap to cooking oil.