Great Apes Summit Delegates Issue Statement on Palm Oil

08th Oct 2013 Press Releases

The Great Apes Summit, which brought together scientists, advocates, public policy experts, media professionals, conservation leaders, range state officials and program funders to discuss issues and propose solutions, was co-hosted by the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP), the Arcus Foundation, and the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival.

We, the delegates to the Great Apes Summit, gathered 21-24 September in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, USA, and committed to the conservation of apes and their habitats, are concerned that the rapid and under-regulated expansion of oil palm plantations across Asia and Africa poses a significant danger to the long-term survival of all ape species in the wild. We therefore issue a coordinated response that seeks to protect priority forests and the apes they contain, including chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, orangutans and gibbons, and seek to promote the use of sustainably sourced palm oil through the following six action points:

1.Governments to suspend any development of palm oil concessions until areas of High Conservation Value (HCV) and High Carbon Stock (HCS) are identified, including existing protected areas and areas off-limits due to national planning laws.

2.Governments to cease any expansion of plantations into existing protected areas, and commit to expanding protected area size and connectivity of forested areas through a combination of a) enforcement of national laws, b) improved management practices, c) participatory community engagement, and d) public exposure of non-adherent companies.

3.Governments and producers to develop rules for palm oil concessions that a) prevent deforestation and promote use of previously non-forested land, b) improve yields on existing plantations as opposed to expansion of land area, c) discourage use of toxic pesticides, d) promote the human rights of the workforce, and e) implementation of an accessible, transparent system of reporting on these commitments through independent third-party auditing.

4.Purchasers, processors, traders, and retailers to investigate and publicize current supply chains and halt sourcing from companies that a) are involved in current deforestation or new peatland development, b) not identifying and protecting HCV and HCS areas in their concessions, c) involved in developments on peatland, and d) breaking national environmental and conservation laws.

5.The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to monitor existing Principles and Criteria (RSPO P & C) and strengthen protocols, where necessary, to ensure that standards are enforced in a transparent way and members are accountable for their actions, with special attention to: a) no clearance of protected forests, HCV forests or areas off-limits due to National Spatial Planning regulations, b) no clearance of HCS forest, c) no clearance of peatlands or new planting on previously cleared peatlands, d) consideration of existing ape population ranges prior to development of concessions e) immediate public reporting and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, f) fixed time limits for members to certify plantations and associated smallholders, and g) enforcement of current standards.

6.Consumers (companies and individuals) and financiers to a) immediately shift to sustainably sourced palm oil and palm oil products, b) cease partnerships with, and funding support for, suppliers that do not implement RSPO P&C, c) commit to a clear timelines to transition certified palm oil sourcing to fully segregated physical product, d) direct purchases to suppliers willing to go beyond current RSPO standards, and e) commit to a zero deforestation policy with clear targets and timelines.

We can strengthen the palm oil regulatory processes and act together to halt the illegal or under-regulated expansion of plantations that threatens ape species and their habitats. Experts predict that by 2030 over 90 percent of ape habitat in Africa and Asia will have been disturbed by the expansion of development projects, and the palm oil industry represents a significant portion of that development. Failure to act now will have serious consequences that could hasten the extinction of chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, orangutans, and gibbons.

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October  2013