Saving forest is beyond the power of Indonesia’s government

Saving forest is beyond the power of Indonesia’s government, according to a report in the Jakarta Post. Here’s the extract

Agriculture Minister AntonApriyantono on Tuesday defended Indonesia’s drive to expand oil palmplantations, despite a demand by environmentalists for a moratorium ondeforestation.

Speaking in his keynote address at the opening of the sixth annualmeeting of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) at the GrandHyatt Hotel in Nusa Dua, Bali, Apriyantono said any moratorium,including that recently called for by Greenpeace, was beyond thecontrol of the Indonesian government. 

It must be that there are other forces at work. Surely, it would be more environmentally sensible to intensify production in existing plantations.

If you’ve been following the debate on energy intensity on the Big Biofuels Blog, mostly buried in the comments, (and perhaps more relevantly here) then you’ll know that I’ve been interested in the cradle to grave carbon dioxide position of palm oil. I’m indebted to Almuth on biofuel watch, who points me to this page .

Here’s the key Passage

Deforestation also releases amounts of carbon which is held by the vegetation, ie above soil. Indonesia’s old growth forests are estimated to hold around 306 tonnes of carbon per hectare.5 86% of that carbon are lost during ‘selective logging’, which tends to be followed by land clearance for plantations or agriculture. A mature oil palm plantation only holds less carbon than logged forest, around 63 tonnes per hectare, but those plantations have an average life-time of only 25 years.

As Almuth says in answer to a question about how much carbon dioxide can be attributed to biodiesel from  palm oil…

If you are looking for precise information as to how much of this is related to producing palm oil from biodiesel – no such information is available.  It would require detailed auditing but the palm oil supply chain is not transparent and not traceable. Apart from the very partial reporting requirements in the UK, there are no requirements on biodiesel producers or suppliers to disclose the origin of their feedstock (although a lot of them are very open about using palm oil for biodiesel). In any case, as you will be aware, there are serious question marks over the relevance of putting too much reliance on direct impacts.

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