Sunday, October 24, 2010

New Palm Oil Free campaign; worst SE Asia haze in 4 years; RSPO news



1.  New Palm Oil Free campaign supported by Planetark.org.  See http://palmoilfree.planetark.org/

 
2.  http://planetark.com/enviro-news/item/59960
 
Worst Haze From Indonesia In 4 Years Hits Neighbors Hard
Date: 22-Oct-10

Worst Haze From Indonesia In 4 Years Hits Neighbors Hard Photo: Vivek Prakash

A combination of two photos shows Singapore's financial district skyline on a clear day (top) and shrouded in haze (bottom). Illegal forest clearing by fire in Indonesia's Sumatra Island is sending haze across the Straits of Malacca
Photo: Vivek Prakash

Illegal forest clearing fires in Indonesia's Sumatra Island are sending haze across the Malacca Strait to neighboring Malaysia and Singapore, causing the worst air pollution since 2006, officials said on Thursday.

Despite pledge among governments to deter fires, the haze prompted Malaysia to alert vessels in the Malacca Strait of poor visibility as short as 2 nautical miles and shut many schools.

Singapore, covered in thick smoke this week, saw its air pollution index hit the highest level since 2006 on Wednesday. The port and international airport are still functioning as normal.

"The suspicion is that this is coming from forests that have been opened up for plantations. We think it may be for palm oil," Purwasto Saroprayogi, head of the land and forest fires department at Indonesia's Environment Ministry, told Reuters.
Saroprayogi said the haze was caused by fires lit to clear land illegally in Dumai and Bengkalis districts in Riau province, in the north of Sumatra island.

Indonesia has a long history of weak forestry law enforcement and illegal land clearing by palm oil developers is not uncommon.

Fires clear land quickly and reduce the acidity of peatland soil, but release vast amounts of greenhouse gases into the air.

The haze returned to the region less than a week after environment ministers in Southeast Asia met in Brunei to address land and forest fires, which drew immediate flak from neighbors.

"This is not the first time that we have informed the Indonesians that they should pay attention to hotspots in Sumatra and Borneo," Singapore's Environment Minister Yaacob Ibrahim told reporters on Wednesday.

Yaacob said if the haze worsened, "we will register our concerns again, perhaps on even stronger terms, to our Indonesian colleagues," adding Singapore may seek to reconvene another meeting to find "additional measures" to mitigate the problem.

Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said Kuala Lumpur was seeking "more cooperation" from Jakarta in tackling the haze problem, state news agency Bernama quoted him as saying.

"According to the reports we've received, the haze originates from there (Indonesia). We are not simply making accusation but we want action before the haze spreads and becomes more detrimental to Malaysia," he said.

Muhyiddin, also education minister, said schools in Muar town in southern Johor state had been closed and about 5,000 masks were distributed after air quality hit hazardous levels, the Star newspaper reported on Thursday.

The worst haze hit the region in 1997-98, when drought caused by El Nino led to major Indonesian fires. The smoke spread to Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand and cost more than $9 billion in damage to tourism, transport and farming.
(Additional reporting by Sunanda Creagh in Jakarta and Niluksi Koswanage in Kuala Lumpur; Editing by Miral Fahmy)
 
 
3.  Green Palm Oil Output Must Rise 5-Fold By 2015: AAK
Date: 25-Oct-10
Country: UK
Author: Michael Taylor

Production of sustainable certified palm oil needs to increase about fivefold in the next five years, to meet buyers' commitments, the British unit of Swedish oils manufacturer AAK said on Friday.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an industry body of consumers, green groups and plantation companies, was formed in 2004 and aims to promote growth and use of sustainable oil palm products.

Annual production capacity of RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil jumped over the 3 million tonnes mark last month, according to the Roundtable. Certification for green palm oil started in August 2008.

"Many blue-chip companies are making statements that by 2015, they will use only certified palm," Ian McIntosh, president, west division at AAK, told Reuters on Friday.

"We need to promote the reasons why plantations should pursue certification -- the principle reason is that the market expects and demands it," said McIntosh, who is currently the treasurer at the RSPO. "It has got to be 15 million tonnes."

Palm oil is used in products such as food, cosmetics, tyres and biofuels, but the there has been weak demand for certified palm oil due to the higher cost involved.

Palm oil planters have also complained that premiums for eco-friendly palm oil are not high enough to encourage production.

Accusations from green groups over deforestation have led to some firms boycotting certain plantation companies.

AAK recently sent an audit team to its supplier United Plantations, after a series of critical newspaper reports aimed at its working practices.

The audit reported back in September and found no wrongdoing.
 
 

4.  Greener Palm Oil Needs More Asia Support: Unilever
Date: 20-Oct-10
Country: UK
Author: Michael Taylor

Palm oil buyers in India and China need to join those in Europe in signing up for a certification scheme to promote sustainable palm oil, consumer goods giant Unilever said on Tuesday.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) an industry body of consumers, green groups and plantation companies, was formed in 2004 and aims to promote growth and use of sustainable oil palm products.

"We need to increase the uptake of certified oil in the market," Jan Kees Vis, global director sustainable sourcing development at Unilever told Reuters. "We know that the demand from Europe is not enough."

Annual production capacity of RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil jumped over the 3 million tonnes mark last month, according to the Roundtable. Certification for green palm oil started in August 2008.

"Global production is about 45 million tonnes -- India takes 8 million tonnes, China 7 million tonnes, Europe about 6 million tonnes, United States and Egypt 1 million tonnes," added Vis, who was elected to lead the RSPO at its conception in 2004.
 
Read more: http://planetark.org/wen/59926

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