Sometimes something really good happens.
The World Bank has withdrawn funding for the palm oil sector including the Wilmar company that supplies [PDF] palm kernel to Fonterra. The World Bank is not satisfied that the palm plantations they loaned to in parts of the developing world met acceptable standards for sustainability. Congratulations to the Forest Peoples Programme and other groups such as Greenpeace for the excellent activism and lobbying on this issue.
As a forests campaigner I am delighted at any moves for reassessment by the funders of planet-wrecking. The wholesale destruction of tropical rainforests in places like Sumatra, Kalimantan and West Papua has accelerated since the rush to produce palm oil. Fonterra and New Zealand dairy farms are some of the largest customers for palm kernel on the planet, which is a co-product of the palm oil plantations. They need to stop and think about their responsibilities.
The illegal and unsustainable logging which precedes the plantations must stop. The palm oil boom has made it even tougher to prevent the extinction of rare plants and animals which depend on tropical rainforest. Then there is the small matter of the 60 million indigenous people world wide who depend on the integrity of forest ecosystems. Rainforest destruction is our loss in terms of climate change and biodiversity, but forest people are also hit by the immediate front-line loss of homes, food supplies, culture and future.
It is about time that the World Bank slowed down the funding of deforestation and demanded robust certification of all products connected to its funding programmes. Their action signals to industrial dairy, corporates that market palm products and concerned citizens that all products from the tropical rainforest areas of the world need careful scrutiny. It is not easy to verify that timber or palm products come from socially and ecologically sustainable sources, but consumers can start by asking questions.
This destructive industry is attempting to claim green credibility, but with little success. The English Advertising Standards Authority has just upheld a complaint by Friends of the Earth of misleading advertising by Malaysian Palm Oil companies. An advertisement claiming palm oil to be The Green Answer was found to be untrue.
The World Bank has signalled change with their cheque-books and we can also do our bit. In this country, and globally, Fonterra needs to examine the use of palm kernel as an animal feed, just like Cadbury did with palm oil recently after intense public pressure.
I’m confident that New Zealanders are also keen to reject illegal logging. Fortunately, Parliament has an opportunity to stand up against rainforest destruction by voting for my Member’s Bill, the Customs and Excise (Sustainable Forestry) Bill, which will regulate the trade at the border. The Bill will be in the House at the end of this month so I’m asking you to remind the Government of Aotearoa New Zealand how to vote for the forests.