People, Environment

Indonesian Palm Oil Giants Disband Green Pledge

Indonesian Palm Oil Giants Disband Green PledgeIndonesian Palm Oil Giants Disband Green Pledge

Less than two years after some of the world’s largest palm oil growers came together to sign the landmark Indonesia Palm Oil Pledge, the industry coalition for deforestation and exploitation-free cultivation practices on Friday announced that it has disbanded.

In a statement on its website, IPOP said, “IPOP signatories have decided that recent ground-breaking policy developments in Indonesia have fulfilled the purpose of IPOP… Therefore, its presence can be dissolved.”

IPOP’s member companies said in the statement that they supported the dissolution and will go back to implementing their own zero-deforestation and sustainability policies. They will also work with the Indonesian government to strengthen the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil certification as the international market standard, reported.

Among the policy breakthroughs cited by IPOP as justification for disbanding were a move by Indonesian President Joko Widodo to set up a special Peatland Restoration Agency in January to restore the carbon-rich peat soils that are drained and cleared by agribusiness firms, and a freeze on new permits for oil palm plantations and mines to halt deforestation.

These policies were a response to Indonesia’s worst haze crisis on record, as fires razed the country’s forests and peatlands from July to October last year. The haze has become a regular occurrence in recent decades and much of the burning has been blamed on the palm oil and paper sectors as smallholders use slash-and-burn techniques to clear land for plantations.

IPOP, which was signed at the United Nations Climate Summit in 2014, was an effort by the world’s biggest palm oil growers and the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce to help break this link between palm oil and deforestation.

Its signatories–Singapore’s Golden Agri Resources, Wilmar International and Musim Mas; Indonesia’s Asian Agri and Astra Agro Lestari; and American firm Cargill–together account for 60% of Indonesia’s palm oil exports.

These firms pledged to adopt deforestation-free palm oil cultivation practices across their supply chain, improve smallholder livelihoods and encourage other industry players to make similar commitments. All firms also agreed to independent monitoring and verification, and to publish regular progress reports to keep the initiative transparent and accountable.

But the pledge attracted the ire of officials from Indonesia’s economic and agriculture ministries, who since last August have accused IPOP firms of jeopardizing Indonesia’s palm oil industry and demanded that companies backtrack on their zero deforestation commitments and exempt smallholders from these requirements.