Deforestation for palm oil in decline

In its 2021 report on deforestation, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) identifies a slowing trend for deforestation linked to palm oil in Indonesia and Malaysia. In particular, deforestation from large-scale plantations is declining. Similarly, the World Resources Institute (WRI) identifies this trend over the past years. According to the WRI, 2020 is the fourth straight year that palm oil deforestation has been trending down. (Source: WRI)

Why a slowing trend?

This decline is, according to the WWF and WRI, the result of strengthened law enforcement, moratoria, certification of palm oil plantations and corporate zero-deforestation commitments. Government initiatives in Indonesia and Malaysia have introduced in the past years to combat deforestation, such as a permanent moratorium on primary forests and peatland conversion or stricter forest laws. In addition, corporate actions such as the No Deforestation, No Peat and No Exploitation commitments (NDPE) have been introduced on an increasing scale by the palm oil industry. As this analysis by CDP shows, companies reporting on palm oil have made the most progress on deforestation by far, compared to actions on other commodities. Finally, certification standards as the RSPO do now include a ban on any deforestation or peat clearing.

Challenges ahead

While deforestation from large scale plantations is declining, deforestation from small scale farmers is increasing. It is crucial to accelerate this slowing trend in large-scale plantations and eliminate deforestation. In addition, as outlined by a recent study of the WWF, remaining deforestation in Indonesian Borneo is also associated with pressure from smallholders that do not have zero-deforestation commitments or other voluntary commitments.

It is therefore key to ensure that small scale farmers can engage in corporate and government actions to combat deforestation. For more than 3 million small farmers worldwide, palm oil is an important income source. Increasing the socioeconomic benefits while deforestation is key, for example by providing trainings to increase their yield and productivity.

Toward deforestation-free palm oil

EPOA supports action from governments, companies and NGO’s to fight deforestation. We need further action to accelerate the progress made over the years. Are you interested to learn more about our position in light of the EC communication ‘Stepping up EU Action to Protect and Restore the World’s Forests’?

Read our position here