IUCN report: Saying ‘no’ to palm oil would likely displace, not halt biodiversity loss

Banning palm oil would most likely increase the production of other oil crops to meet demand for oil, displacing rather than halting the significant global biodiversity losses caused by palm oil, warned an IUCN report published yesterday.

Headerfoto: Oil palm fruits 

The IUCN report, Palm Oil and Biodiversity, is an objective analysis of palm oil impacts on global biodiversity and possible solutions. Given other oil crops require up to nine times as much land to produce than palm oil, its replacement would significantly increase the total land area used for vegetable oil production to meet global demand. Avoiding further palm oil-related deforestation will deliver the biggest gains for biodiversity by far, the report found.

“When you consider the disastrous impacts of palm oil on biodiversity from a global perspective, there are no simple solutions,” said IUCN Director General Inger Andersen. “Half of the world’s population uses palm oil in food, and if we ban or boycott it, other, more land-hungry oils will likely take its place. Palm oil is here to stay, and we urgently need concerted action to make palm oil production more sustainable, ensuring that all parties – governments, producers and the supply chain – honour their sustainability commitments.”

Written by the IUCN Oil Palm Task Force, the report aims to provide a constructive path to improving sustainability in the palm oil industry. Heleen van den Hombergh, senior expert agro-commodities at IUCN NL, is part of the task force and contributed to the chapter on environmental governance to mitigate oil palm impacts to biodiversity. “Establishing biodiversity-friendly ways of palm oil production is a matter of limiting the scale of expansion and leaving forests and peatlands intact, but also of responsible management,” Van den Hombergh states. “For example, the application of robust sustainability standards, avoiding conversion and actively creating sufficient space for wildlife corridors. We also encourage financial institutions and governments to use their leverage more strongly to require responsible production and invest in landscape friendly productive solutions.”


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Ewa Magiera

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