The Greenpeace report, entitled "Cooking the Climate" (2), shows how companies including Unilever, Nestlé and Procter & Gamble are driving the destruction of Indonesia's peatlands to satisfy growing demand for palm oil used in food, cosmetics and fuel. Indonesia's peatlands are some of the richest stores of carbon in the world, and their destruction is one of the most reckless and avoidable contributions to global warming.
The tiny Indonesian province of Riau, on the island of Sumatra, is the site of 25 per cent of the country's palm oil plantations. There are plans to expand the area under concession by three million hectares, which would cover half the province with plantations. This would have devastating consequences for Riau's peatlands which store a massive 14.6 billion tonnes of carbon (3) - equivalent to one year's global greenhouse gas emissions. Riau's peatlands have already been seriously degraded by industrial development.
Recent investigations conducted by Greenpeace from its Forest Defenders Camp in Riau have documented first-hand how a major Indonesian palm oil producer is engaging in the large-scale clearance and destruction of peatland in flagrant violation of an Indonesian Presidential decree and national forestry regulations.
Palm oil from peatland destruction is fed into the supply chain for global brands such as Flora, Pringles and KitKat. Major multinational companies including Unilever, Nestlé and Procter & Gamble are all named in the report. Greenpeace accuses these companies of 'cooking the climate' by turning a blind eye to peatland destruction for cheap vegetable oil.
"This investigation shows that a handful of international corporations are ultimately responsible for the slashing and burning of Indonesia's peatland forests for food, fuel and laundry detergent. Some of the best known brands in the world are literally cooking the climate," said Emmy Hafild, Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
The report also illustrates how companies are cashing in on global concern about climate change to promote the use of palm oil as a 'biofuel'. Governments around the world are setting targets for biofuel production and use as an alternative to conventional petrol and diesel. Replacing forests and peatlands with palm oil plantations releases far more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than is saved by burning biofuel in place of diesel.
"Trashing rainforests to grow palm oil for biofuels is nothing short of climate vandalism," said Pat Venditti, head of Greenpeace International's Forest Campaign. "Without safeguards to stop palm oil making its way into our fuel tanks, our governments are driving rainforest destruction and increasing carbon emissions in the name of saving the climate."
Forest destruction is responsible for about one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions. Destruction of Indonesia's peatlands alone accounts for 4 per cent of total annual emissions. The report concludes that an immediate moratorium on forest clearance and peatland degradation is the quickest, most effective way to slash Indonesia's emissions. Rehabilitation of degraded peatlands is also highly cost effective.
"At next month's UN climate conference in Bali, political leaders must wake up to the fact that we need to make deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, and make them fast," said Pat Venditti. "Protecting peatlands and other forest areas from destruction is one of the most simple, cost-effective insurance options against global warming."
The international scientific consensus on climate change is that avoiding the worst impacts of climate change demands global warming be kept as far as possible below 2 degrees Celsius, compared to the pre-industrial era. Emissions of greenhouse gases need to have peaked globally by 2015 and then begin a rapid decline.
Greenpeace wants governments meeting in Bali to agree to negotiate a new funding mechanism to protect the world's remaining tropical forests as a critical component of the next phase of the Kyoto Protocol. The resulting reductions in emissions from deforestation must be additional to cuts in emissions from burning fossil fuels.
Other contacts: Emmy Hafild, Executive Director, Greenpeace Southeast Asia. Tel: +66818085124Tiy Chung, Communications Officer, Greenpeace International. Tel: +65 94346582Pat Venditti, Head of Forest Campaign, Greenpeace International. Tel: +44 797 337 5089 James Turner, Press officer, Greenpeace UK. Tel: +44 776 616 5323Press desk hotline, Greenpeace International Communications. Tel: +31 20 718 2470
Notes: 1) Emissions from the destruction of Indonesia’s peatlands represent 4 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions – 1.3 billion tonnes (Gt) from burning, 0.5Gt from ongoing degradation. Source: Hooijer et al (2006): 29. Global emissions of greenhouse gases in 2004 were 49Gt. Source: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Working Group III (2007):32) The Greenpeace report, “Cooking the Climate”, is available at www.greenpeace.org/cookingtheclimate and the Executive Summary at www.greenpeace.org/cookingtheclimate/summary 3) Riau’s peatlands store 14.6Gt of carbon. Source: Wahyunto et al (2003):344) Photos: background photos of Indonesian forest destruction are available from John Novis, Greenpeace International photo manager. Tel: +31 6 5381 91215) Video: background footage on palm oil plantations and forest destruction in Indonesia is available from Maarten van Rouveroy, Greenpeace International video producer. Tel: +31 6 46 19 73 22.