With the UNFCCC COP21 going on in Paris, on the other side of the world in Bogor, Indonesia, Wetlands International and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) are taking action to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by co-organising a workshop on for palm oil growers on 'How to implement RSPO's Principles and Criteria in relation to peat'. The workshop took place on 1st and 2nd December.
Around 50 RSPO growers attended the workshop and showed great interest in tools like the Palm GHG emissions calculator, GIS and remote sensing tools, experiences with rewetting and options for paludiculture. Most importantly, the atmosphere was open, people were sharing knowledge and experiences, asking Wetlands International and RSPO representatives critical questions about RSPO criteria on subsidence, drainability limits, emissions, fire risk, flood prevention and water management. Growers also shared their experiences on the implementation of the current RSPO Principles and Criteria ‘on the ground’, which is of great importance for RSPO’s future considerations.
Palm oil is an important commodity worldwide, with much of the production taking place in Indonesia and Malaysia, with China, India and the EU as the top-three importers. A significant number of palm oil plantations are located on peat soils. To make these wet soils suitable for palm oil cultivation they need to be drained. Depending on the context there are several potential consequences to drainage of peatlands. Especially relevant in light of the recent fires and haze in Indonesia is the fact that dry peat is more prone to fire. Even when not on fire dried out peat oxidises, emitting large amounts of CO2 and causing the soil to subside. When the soil eventually subsides below the drainiage level, plantations may flood and productive land is lost.
Overall, we can look back on a fruitful workshop and succesful cooperation between palm oil growers, RSPO and Wetlands International. Given the positive outcomes and the great interest from the growers' side we are hoping to organise follow-up workshops over the next 5 years.