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CO2 emissions from oil palm plantations on peat swamp forest outweigh savings [#57]
A detailed recent report produced by Delft Hydraulics for Wetlands International illustrates that biofuel plantations in Indonesia are causing substantial CO2 emissions, both through peat bog drainage and associated fire.  This is an extremely serious issue, as it more than negates any carbon benefit from the use of palm-oil based biofuels.

I very much recommend drawing on this report for any briefings on the topic of biofuels.

Hooijer, A., Silvius, M., Wösten, H. and Page, S. 2006. PEAT-CO2, Assessment of CO2 emissions from drained peatlands in SE Asia. Delft Hydraulics report Q3943 (2006).

A couple of quotes from the report:

"According to the concession data available, 27% of both timber and oil palm concession areas in Indonesia are on peatlands. The total oil palm concession area on peatlands is 28,009 km2 (2.8 million hectares)"

"An interesting assessment of the expected rate of development of oil palm plantations is provided in a report by the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry in co-operation with the European Union (Sargeant, 2001): “The world demand for palm oil is forecast to increase from its present 20.2 million tonnes a year to 40 million tonnes in 2020. If this demand is to be met, 300 000 ha of new estates will need to be planted in each of the next 20 years. We predict that by far the largest slice of this new land will come from within Indonesia where labour and land remain plentiful. And we expect that Sumatra with its relatively well-developed infrastructure and nucleus of skilled labour, will absorb 1.6 million hectares of this expansion. It is inevitable that most new oil palm will be in the wetlands, as the more 'desirable' dry lands of the island are now occupied. We expect that of the new areas, half will be developed by estates and half by smallholders.” There are two important aspects to this assessment:
1. It suggests that over 50% of oil palm plantations, at least in Sumatra (but similar considerations apply in parts of Kalimantan), will be developed on peatlands. This is more than is suggested by concession data available to the study.
2. It suggests that half of the plantations will be developed by smallholders, which may not be represented in the concession data."
posted on 2007-02-13 09:15 UTC by Dr Lera Miles, UNEP-WCMC

  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme