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  • Palm Oil Plantations and the REDD Controversy

    2010 - 03.29

    The United Nations guideline only defines trees (as carbon absorbers) based on height, without any detail of the species. Therefore the proposal by the Indonesian Forestry Ministry to include palm oil plantations in the forestry sector would allow Indonesia to receive more benefits from REDD based on the expansion of green areas.

    Understandably this sparks huge controversy and several regional governments, such as the North Sumatra Forestry Bureau are against the plan. The essential point to REDD is to avoid deforestation and the incentives of this scheme are based on the ability of a country to avoid deforestation from its natural forest. As this is the case donors will not facilitate funding for areas that are not naturally forested. Looking at this from an objective point of view it looks like the Indonesian government would like to receive double benefits from palm oil. It seems bizarre that they should receive money from investors for plantation development as well as REDD compensation from its status as trees.

    It is for this reason that REDD should not be confused with carbon trading. REDD is often thought to be identical to carbon trading where forests are only perceived as carbon captures. This thinking makes the mechanism dangerous. The importance of biodiversity will be neglected if forest rehabilitation doesn’t consider the forest as an integrated ecosystem.

    The plan to include palm oil plantations as forests just goes to show how narrow minded the REDD scheme is. REDD is the middle option between preserving tropical rainforests and emission reduction from carbon trade. Therefore if REDD is to have any hope of success the national implementation standard of REDD must include biodiversity inclusive environmental impact assessments.

    The conversion of forests for other purposes is inevitable due to the need of land for agricultural estates and the population increase. However without proper consideration plans such as defining palm oil plantations as forest will only legalise the continuous acts of destroying Indonesian forest. It is essential that ecologically important areas maintain their legal status as preserved forest. These preserved forests must also be protected from the change on its biodiversity composition due to illegal occupation. Forest conversions need not always be negative so long as accurate and comprehensive ecological considerations are taken into account.

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    One Response to “Palm Oil Plantations and the REDD Controversy”

    1. Melissa Serpico says:

      does REDD not include a biodiversity impact assessment at present?

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