The inclusion of rainforests in the next climate protocol fails to protect the forests from the expansion of palm oil plantations. A study issued at Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology argues that palm oil plantations are a massive danger because they already are an important driving force behind deforestation in Southeast Asia. The proportion of palm oil that goes into biodiesel production is still small but there’s a real option that profitability increases as the carbon trading market takes off. If that happens, there is a risk that palm oil plantations will start to expand in the Amazon and Congo basins, say Martin Persson and Christian Azar, the researchers.
The concerns were echoed by others. The agreement reached during the global climate talks in Poznan omits biodiversity, and that allows countries to uproot natural forests to plant palm oil or fruit plantations, according to Nils Hermann Ranum, of Rainforest Foundation Norway in an interview at the negotiations. “More than 50 percent of the planet’s species are found in tropical rain forests,” he told reporters, adding that it may not fall under the protection of the climate agreement.
Putting a price on carbon will actually lead to an increased demand for bioenergy, indirectly making forest clearance for agricultural land more profitable, say the Swedish scientists. Clearing tropical forests for palm oil plantations making liquid and solid biofuels is an even more lucrative business than selling the wood or possibly participating in conservation.
“The current efforts to include tropical deforestation in a future climate regime may not be sufficient to protect the world’s tropical forests”, according to the Swedish scientists. “In addition to a price on the carbon emissions from deforestation, other and stronger protection measures will still be needed,” they said.
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