Vast expanses of precious rainforest are sacrificed to the growing global demand for palm oil. The transformation of rainforests into plantations destroys the habitats of endangered species such as the orangutan, causes social problems – and worsens the climate change.
Sumatran tiger, Sumatran rhino and orangutan are examples on critically endangered species that are threatened because of mass destruction of tropical forests in Southeast Asia.
Orangutan being rescued by workers of Centre for Orangutan Protection from a trashed forest in IOI consession in Kalimantan, Indonesia.
Social problems related to palm oil production include for instance land ownership conflicts; forced evictions of indigenous people from their customary land; social conflicts over jobs, land and livelihood; water pollution and health problems for the workers from chemical inputs; poor working conditions in plantations and smallholder grower debt. NGOs ands local people have reported many incidents where violence has been used by palm oil companies or local police and paramilitary forces against villagers and farmers whose lands are being grabbed by palm oil companies.
The great demand for cropland also drives up prices for other agricultural products, including food—thus jeopardizing global food safety.
The destruction of carbon rich peat forests poses a particular hazard. With each step of deforestation vast amounts of greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere. Attempts to reduce the impact of climate change by using biodiesel made from palm oil will not have the desired effect - on the contrary, clearing forests and draining and burning peatlands to grow palm oil will release more carbon emissions than burning fossil fuels.