The carbon footprint of New Zealand milk could be much larger than Fonterra claims.
A new report released today reveals that Fonterra’s continued use of palm kernel expeller (PKE) as a supplementary feed on dairy farms could have produced up to 8.9 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. That’s the equivalent to 12 per cent of New Zealand’s entire annual greenhouse gas emissions.
Titled ‘The carbon cost of palm kernel expeller from Malaysia and Indonesia’ this is the first fully transparent report produced on the carbon footprint created by PKE. Last year, a record breaking 1.4 million tonnes of palm product, which is currently unsustainably produced, was imported in to New Zealand to feed Fonterra’s industrial dairying operation.
The huge carbon footprint of palm kernel is due to the well-documented destruction of both rainforests and carbon rich peatlands in Indonesia and Malaysia by the palm industry. As it expands to meet the growing global demand for PKE, along with its co-products crude palm oil, and palm kernel oil more and more forest and pealand is cleared and converted to palm plantation. These forests and peatlands are vital for storing greenhouse gases which when released help drive climate change. Indeed, tropical forest destruction is responsible for around a fifth of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
The destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests and peatlands also has a devastating impact on biodiversity. The endangered orang-utan and the Sumatran tiger are just two of the species under threat of extinction due to the loss of natural forest habitat.
This damning new report - written by independent scientist Dr Rob Carlton, who specialises in calculating carbon footprints and backed by world leading climate scientist and member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Professor Pete Smith - further highlights how Fonterra’s use of PKE is accelerating climate change.
And this is not the first time Fonterra have been implicated in this climate crime.
Since 2009, Greenpeace has repeatedly highlighted the links between PKE, Fonterra’s industrial dairying model and deforestation in South East Asia. Yet Fonterra, and the Government, have failed to address these concerns and imports of this palm product have sky-rocketed - threatening to damage New Zealand’s important reputation as a clean green producer.
New Zealand now imports a third of the world PKE.
Surely, as a responsible business Fonterra has an obligation to their customers worldwide to ensure that their products meet the highest environmental standards. After all, this is what New Zealanders expect, and is integral to values that we hold. And there’s nowhere left for John Key’s Government to hide on this either, especially as a recent UK Government report highlighted the use of PKE for animal feed as an area needing urgent attention, due to its links to deforestation.
This latest revelation also comes at a time when another New Zealand based company, Cottonsoft, has been exposed for trashing rainforests to make toilet paper. Cottonsoft were bought out by one of the world’s most notorious rainforest destroyers Asia Pulp and Paper in 2007. Forensic testing concluded that some Cottonsoft brands contained rainforest fibre (mixed tropical hardwoods).
So the game is up. It’s time for Fonterra to step up, kick PKE out of its dairy feed chain, and start being part of the solution to climate change, rather than the problem.