Palm oil crusade targets UN's climate change talks in Bangkok

By Nicholas Zeman | September 18, 2009
Posted September 30, 2009

With more than 4,000 delegates convening in Bangkok to discuss climate change over the next days, World Growth, a nongovernmental organization and palm oil advocate, decided it was the time to launch its campaign. World Growth's "Palm Oil Green Development Campaign" will focus on "setting the record straight and correcting the falsehoods and misconceptions" propagated by others like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.

Indonesia would be exactly the kind of country that World Growth represents: a poor, developing nation that is also one of the world's leading palm oil producers. "Environmental groups have made palm oil a poster child in a wider campaign to pressure developing countries to stop converting forest land to productive agro-industries," World Growth said. "Developing nations must be allowed the chance to grow and develop without political intervention by environmental groups or developed nations."

In a speech, a senior delegate for Indonesia told the U.N. that his country was a victim of climate change and "would like to do something to prevent it from worsening," Agency France Presse reported on Monday.

"While there have been some very general statements made here, I find it hard to imagine Indonesia agreeing to anything that inhibit their ability to support economic growth," said Alan Oxley, CEO of World Growth.

Palm oil production is rapidly expanding in Asia, partly as its use for biodiesel feedstock. Major oil companies like Neste Oil of Finland and Brazil's Petrobras are sourcing palm oil as a percentage of the raw materials they need to produce renewable diesel and biodiesel. Several companies in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and South Korea are making millions of gallons of palm methyl esters, selling the fuel domestically and in Europe. "Palm oil is a highly efficient, high-yielding source of food and fuel, providing an efficient way of providing fossil fuel alternatives and capturing carbon from the atmosphere," World Growth said Monday.

World Growth said that biodiesel demand will not drive palm oil production in the future, but continued demand for the material as a food ingredient will be ravenous. "The projections are staggering," Oxley said. "Compared to the size of the fossil fuel market, palm oil biodiesel will make a relatively modest contribution to energy demand."

The meetings in Bangkok are the last big push before the U.N. summit in Copenhagen this December, and several interest groups have made palm oil a considerable target, hoping to convince delegates that rain forest destruction is a major contributor to climate change. "Palm oil generates 10 times more energy than it consumes," Oxley said. "It's very prosperous and offers excellent returns on the land used to produce it."
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