Points to Consider in Greenhouse Gas Emission Issue

THE ongoing battle among Malaysian and Indonesian oil palm planters to block the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission criteria from their oil palm activities warrants serious consideration.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) general assembly 5 (GA5) meeting in Bali last year saw the Malaysian Palm Oil Association (MPOA) and Indonesia’s GAPKI walking out of the meeting after a deadlock over the GHG issue.

At last week’s RSPO GA6 meeting in KL, Malaysian and Indonesian planters may have somewhat “temporarily” stopped the RSPO from adopting the GHG criteria.

However, should the GHG proposal go through at GA6, some RSPO member planters are said to be prepared to quit their RSPO memberships.

Major palm oil producers know that by accepting the GHG criteria, they are just setting themselves up to be labelled as “unsustainable” producers, which will hinder their growth.

From the mid-1980s, Malaysian planters have successfully challenged the anti-palm oil campaign by the American Soybean Association, but now, they could be fighting a losing battle on the issues of GHG emission and the industry’s sustainability.

The working trip led by Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok to the EU this week carries a special task at hand – to appeal to the EU Council and its member states – Germany, Holland and Belgium, to reconsider their stringent GHG legislations on palm oil.

The Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) is heading to Italy on Nov 24 to meet with technical experts from the EU Joint Research Council to discuss the palm oil life cycle assessment (LCA) values and the carbon intensity factor, which determine whether palm oil can be imported into the EU. It has to be said that the battle against the GHG criteria and sustainability issues has not proceeded well.

The RSPO is a voluntary organisation, so member planters can just withdraw if the GHG issue becomes a disadvantage to them.

However, at the government-to-government level, it will be a big loss if Malaysia cannot deal with the EU and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change requirements.

One point worth noting about the nature of the working trip by Dompok to the EU this week is that it will track the same steps taken twice last year by the then commodities minister Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui.

Last year, the defence on sustainability was that Malaysian planters were implementing RSPO standards and that Malaysia has certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) in production.

But this time round, what is Malaysia’s strength or bargaining position with the EU Council?

In other words, can the Malaysian government successfully defend the stance taken by its planters under MPOA to reject the GHG criteria in its meetings with the Europeans?

What will happen to the future of Malaysia’s palm oil exports to the EU?

Will the EU deem that Malaysia’ CSPO is now no longer sustainable?

Another point to ponder is whether the MPOB can challenge the technical expert views of the EU Joint Research Council in the areas of palm oil life cycle assessment and carbon intensity. Source : The Star by Hanim Adnan


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