Auditing the auditors
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) passed a resolution at their 12th annual general assembly aimed at improving the quality, oversight, and credibility of assessments performed by auditors. RSPO relies on third-party auditors to ensure that, among other things, plantation development does not destroy high conservation value areas and that a process for FPIC is in place with local communities. The move came less than a week after the Environmental Investigation Agency released a case studies report showing auditors failed to identify violations to RSPO’s principals and criteria for sustainable palm oil.
Read more from Eco-business
No exceptions expected
The Malaysian Borneo state of Sabah has taken a step towards eliminating deforestation region-wide by requiring all palm oil production to be certified to RSPO standards by 2025. The Sabah Government will provide technical assistance -- such as access to good planting material and training on effective fertilizer use --to improve yields. These programs can be especially valuable to smallholders, who will receive group certification at no cost. Smallholders account for around 40% of global palm oil production and often cite the cost of RSPO certification as a significant barrier to participation.
Read more from Mongabay
Stepping to the peat
Indonesia has experienced the worst fire season since 1997, with over 127,000 fires sending hazardous haze throughout Southeast Asia and destroying at least 2.1 million hectares of forest and peatlands. In response to the crisis, Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced at COP 21 that he will establish a Peatland Restoration Agency and enforce a moratorium on all new development on peat soil. It is not yet clear whether his actions will take the form of legally binding regulation or a non-binding presidential instruction. Private company landowners have largely distanced themselves from the fires. citing illegal encroachment and windblown embers from nearby blazes. Still, two large agribusiness companies – Golden Argi Resources and APRIL – have announced increased peatland restoration activities in the last month.
Read more from Mongabay
Looking down at deforestation
Two new mapping projects aim to give us a clearer picture of what deforestation looks like on the ground. The latest platform of World Resources Institute’s Global Forest Watch series benchmarks countries’ GHG emissions from deforestation and tracks progress toward reduction goals codified in their climate plans. The research finds that average global emissions from tropical deforestation was 2,270 million tonnes per year over the past decade. Additionally, Google Maps and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have established a three-year partnership to increase access to remote sensing technology such as the Open Fortis Initiative, which facilitates environmental data collection and analysis.
Read more from WRI
Read more about Google & FAO
Popping the hood on promises
This year’s Global Forests Report from CDP, formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project, finds that 70% of the 171 companies reporting data to the forests program have some form of commitment to address forest loss in their supply chains. But making a commitment doesn’t necessarily mean it’s been acted upon. Of the companies with commitments to source certified palm oil, 26% had yet to make any purchases. Only half of companies with certified soy commitments had brought any into their supply chains. CDP conducts the annual disclosure request on behalf of nearly 300 investors with $19 trillion in assets. Sector leaders included Kimberly-Clark Corporation, SCA, Unilever, Metsa Board, Mondi, Tetra Pak, RELX Group, Marks & Spencer, and Kingfisher.
Read the report from CDP
Good thing they’re not on Yelp
In its annual results report, the UK-based nonprofit Global Canopy Programme’s Forest 500 found that only 8% of the 250 “powerbroker” companies it tracked have zero or zero net deforestation commitments in place across their entire supply chain. While the corporate sector has improved marginally overall in 2015, many laggards have yet to make public sustainability commitments. Top-ranked companies remained unchanged, with Danone, Kao Corp., Nestlé S.A., Procter & Gamble, Reckitt Benckiser Group, and Unilever as the only ones to score five of five points on Forest 500’s scale. Investment firms fared even worse as less than 1% have adopted sustainability commitments.
Read the report here
Shoot for the moon, and then measure
“Progress on the New York Declaration on Forests: An Assessment Framework and Initial Report” proposes a set of indicators to monitor progress towards meeting the ten goals outlined in the New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF). The Declaration sets a top line goal to halve natural forest loss by 2020 and end it by 2030 with other goals addressing everything from commodities to restoration to finance. The goals are ambitious, but the document is without a process or methodology for monitoring progress towards achieving them – until now. The report, prepared by Climate Focus in collaboration with the Environmental Defense Fund, Forest Trends, the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, and the Global Canopy Programme, is the first analysis of a multi-year effort to track progress towards meeting the NYDF goals.
Read more at the report site