13/11/2007 (Carbon Positive) - A number of multinational food and household product companies have been named in a report by Greenpeace as contributing to the rapid destruction of tropical rainforest and related greenhouse gas emissions.
The report, Cooking The Climate, names Nestlé, Proctor & Gamble and Unilever as among companies using palm oil from palm plantations grown on land where tropical rainforest has been destroyed to make way for the crop.
For a long time it was the Amazon, but the peatlands of Indonesia have emerged as a major battleground in the fight to halt the clearing of tropical forest. Indonesia holds about 10 per cent of the world’s tropical rainforests but is losing them at the fastest rate. Greenpeace says that over the past five years, this rate of loss has been equivalent to 300 soccer pitches every hour.
The peatlands are vast areas of wetland forest, an enormous natural carbon store. It’s estimated that 4 per cent of total global greenhouse emissions each year come from the burning, clearing and draining of Indonesian peatland.
The focus of Greenpeace’s campaign is on Riau province in Sumatra where 4 million hectares is under threat. The commercial driver of this activity is the rising international demand for palm oil, used in food, cosmetic and laundry products and now biofuels. World production is 37 million tonnes and growing at 4m per year, Reuters reports. Nearly half is supplied by Indonesia.
“Trade in palm oil by some of the world’s food giants and commodity traders is helping to detonate a climate bomb in Indonesia’s rainforests and peatlands,” the report says.
Greenpeace says the companies are at the end of a palm oil supply chain based on unsustainable practices that produce such products as Kit Kat bars, Flora margarine, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Pringles potato crisps.
The companies named have rejected that claim. "Nestlé does not use crude palm oil but rather buys products derived from palm oil from reputable manufacturers," the company said in a statement. Procter and Gamble said "we encourage our suppliers to follow sustainable practices and we support various initiatives for the sustainable production and use of palm products."
Indonesia’s Vice President, Jusuf Kalla, meanwhile, has called on developing countries to take responsibility for the country’s forest destruction and pay to help restore them: "Those foreigners keep harping on our country's high emissions. Our emissions are high, but don't forget who created this. Where did our timber go?"