The RSPO and a Carbon Intensity Standard — Issues, Facts and Necessity

October 2010 – Green Papers: Issue VI

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil has come under significant scrutiny and criticism recently from environmental NGOs. This criticism has centred on a claimed failure of the RSPO to uphold and improve sustainability criteria for palm oil. Pressure from NGOs to tighten sustainability requirements and adopt criteria and principles to demonstrate compliance with a carbon footprint is growing. There is, however, no reason to adopt one. The latest proposals before the RSPO to introduce a carbon standard lack the necessary scientific or social impact analysis to warrant development of such a standard. Seeking to develop and implement a carbon sustainability standard on the present level of knowledge would be a mistake. The information about the level and rate of emissions of greenhouse gases from the production of palm vary so widely that no effort to measure it or set in place measures to reduce it could be devised with an expectation of being able to predict the outcome.  Any such measures would be technically deficient – either having little effect or the wrong effect. Proposals for a carbon standard would single out palm oil as the only food supply in the world which would be required to meet carbon standards before being considered sustainable.

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