Malaysia’s Deforestation Crisis

By Mao (‘20)



Did you know that the chocolate you are eating is causing deforestation?

Global demand for vegetable oils is growing fast. The uses of palm oil more than doubled from 2003 to 2017, according to the research by World Markets and Trade (USDA, January 2017). Palm oil is used in many of the products that sustain our daily life, from margarine and chocolate, to ice cream, soaps, cosmetics, and fuel for cars and power plants.

A report published by Wetlands International states that approximately 90% of world palm oil production takes place in Indonesia and Malaysia. Of these plantations around 20% is grown on peat soils, which used to be covered by peat swamp forests. Peatlands are not very suitable for oil palm production as soil fertility is poor and far too wet for these trees. Therefore, they are being drained and logged.

Destroying peatland is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, annually releasing almost 6% of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions, according to a research done by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in 2016.  Around 20% of all oil palm plantations in Southeast Asia are on peat soil as Sumatra has the largest absolute extent of oil palm plantations on peat which measured to 1.3 Mha.

The RSPO is a non-profit organization that develops and implements global standards for sustainable palm oil. They have developed a set of environmental and social criteria which companies must comply with in order to produce Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO). 19% of palm oil globally is certified by the RSPO by February 2019.

Although using other vegetable oils seems like a practical solution, it would actually create similar or even larger environmental and social problems. One such reason is that since palm oil trees produce 4 -10 times more oil than other crops per unit of cultivated land, according to a research from RSPO, replacing palm oil with other types of vegetable oil would mean that more forests area need to be converted into agricultural land.

Do you want to know what you can do with this?

The best solution is to make sure you buy products that contain sustainable palm oil.

Screen Shot 2019-06-17 at 8.05.58 AMThe products which pass the certificate check set by the RSPO have the logo on the products as you can see in the picture. As we have 2 months for summer vacation, it is a good time for you to make a decision to buy the RSPO certificated product rather than buy a product that uses unsustainable palm oil plantation oil to protect our great carbon stock on the planet.