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The False Choice Between Palm Oil and Indonesian Forests

This post originally appeared in the Jakarta Post.

Palm oil is on a lot of people’s minds. In Indonesia, the industry is booming, with $19.7 billion of crude palm oil exports in 2011. But expanding oil palm plantations have taken their toll on remaining forests and other natural habitats in tropical regions and led to conflict over land with local people.

The world’s top scientists are also raising concerns. According to a recent study in Nature Climate Change, from 1990 to 2010, 90 percent of lands converted to oil palm plantations in Kalimantan were forested.

There need not, however, be a trade-off between palm oil, forests, and communities. It is possible to grow more crops--including oil palm--while keeping forests and cutting rural poverty.

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2 New Tools Can Cut Deforestation and Support Sustainable Palm Oil in Indonesia

Can the world have its palm oil and forests, too? This is an issue that my colleague and I discussed a while back. I am pleased to say that we recently moved a step toward ensuring that the answer is “yes.”

At the 10th Annual Meeting of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), WRI launched two new online mapping applications designed to help the palm oil industry grow while avoiding deforestation. These free tools enable palm oil producers, buyers, investors, and government agencies to easily identify and evaluate locations in Indonesia where they can develop plantations on already-degraded land rather than on currently forested areas. By siting oil palm plantations on degraded or “low-carbon” lands, developers can avoid the need to clear remaining natural forests to meet the growing global demand for palm oil.

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Restoring Nature's Capital

An Action Agenda to Sustain Ecosystem Services - Restaurando El Capital Natural

Proposes an action agenda for business, governments, and civil society to reverse ecosystem degradation.

Pilot analysis of global ecosystems: Forest ecosystems

Provides a "big picture" view of forest extent and change and the role of these ecosystems in industrial roundwood production, woodfuel use and availability, biodiversity, carbon storage and sequestration, and watershed protection....

Perverse Habits

The G8 and Subsidies That Harm Forests and Economies

Identifies Group of Eight (G8) subsidies to forest products industries that undermine forest protection and accelerate forest loss and highlights actions these countries should take to conserve and manage forests for future generations.

Canada's Forests at a Crossroads

An Assessment in the Year 2000

Explores the scale and magnitude of timber, energy, and mineral resources development within Canada's northern frontier, home to over a third of the world's boreal forest and a tenth of total global forest cover....

A First Look at Logging in Gabon

Provides an overview of logging activities within Gabon's forests and summarizes Gabon's forestry law and tax system....

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