Greenpeace clarifies that it fights deforestation, not palm oil

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Photo: YouTube screengrab

The Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo) and the Indonesian Oil Palm Farmers Association (Apkasindo) recently complained to the government against Greenpeace, claiming that the actions of the environmental group are bad for the country’s economy.

Greenpeace issued a response to these claims, saying that they are against deforestation, and not against palm oil in and of itself.

The head of Greenpeace Indonesia Global Forest Campaign, Kiki Taufik, said in a statement to The Jakarta Post, “To be clear, Greenpeace is not anti-palm oil, it is anti-deforestation.”

Greenpeace had staged a protest action on board a tanker owned by Wilmar International that was bringing crude palm oil Dumai, Riau, to Europe. When the tanker was in Spain, protestors climbed on board and displayed streamers saying, “Save Our Rainforest” and “Drop Dirty Palm Oil”.

Apindo and Apkasindo claimed that by accusing Indonesia of dealing in dirty palm oil, Greenpeace had insulted the nation’s dignity.

Greenpeace has also been told by Wilmar that if they wanted better conditions in the palm oil industry, then they should take “collaborative action.” The company also issued a statement saying what the environmental group has failed to consider is that palm oil is “the most efficient” vegetable oil.

This prompted Greenpeace to clarify its position. It acknowledged that palm oil is important to Indonesia’s economy and that it was more efficient “in terms of land use” than sunflower and soybean oil.

“If palm oil is banned, companies or governments might turn to other crops, which might replace palm oil’s role in deforestation [or even worsen it] in Indonesia and elsewhere. We support palm oil from producers or palm oil companies that aren’t destroying forests or exploiting people, and there’s plenty of palm oil that fits that bill,” said Greenpeace in its statement.

The environmental group also drew attention to the Palm Oil Innovation Group (POIG), citing it as an example of an initiative with multiple stakeholders coming from palm oil producers and NGOs with a progressive viewpoint, including Greenpeace.

Taufi said, ”POIG represents ‘best in class’ standards for palm oil production and properly addresses the environmental, social and human rights impacts of palm oil development. Local people shouldn’t have to lose their livelihoods over palm oil, but the current situation means the production of palm oil can result in land grabs, loss of livelihoods and social conflict.”

Greenpeace alleges that the advantages from the surge in palm oil production has only gone to a few people from large plantation companies, who were already rich to begin with, and sought to remind everyone that he Oil Palm Smallholders Union (SPKS) asked the government a few months ago to judicially review a plantation funds regulation from 3 years ago concerning subsidies for biofuel products. SPKS alleged that the 2015 regulation had not actually made palm oil productivity bigger, and was advantageous only to firms that received biodiesel incentives.

According to a report from the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) from 2016, nearly 82 percent of the biofuel subsidy totaling Rp 3.26 trillion only went to four companies—PT Wilmar Bionergi Indonesia (Rp 779 billion), PT Wilmar Nabati Indonesia (Rp 1.02 trillion), Musim Mas Grup (Rp 534 billion), PT Darmex Biofuel (Rp 330 billion).

However, ”only a fraction of this amount has been spent on smallholders. It is these practices that insult the dignity of Indonesia, and palm oil traders like Wilmar jeopardize Indonesian palm oil commodities and the state economy in the long run. Greenpeace calls on the government to take firm action against these forest destroyers, and law enforcement is key,” continued Taufi.

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