Household brands accused of "cooking the climate" as British government prepares for climate summit

8 November, 2007

KitKat, Pringles and Flora all implicated; palm oil industry "out of control"

A month before a major UN climate summit in Bali, new research reveals how a handful of the UK's best known brands are complicit in the destruction of Indonesia's peat swamp forests. These peatlands now account for a massive 4% of the world's total annual greenhouse gas emissions. (1)

The report, entitled ‘Cooking the Climate', shows how companies including Unilever, Nestle and Procter & Gamble are all linked to the destruction of Indonesia's forests and peatlands to feed an explosion in global demand for palm oil. The report explains how the UK's bestselling chocolate bar - Nestle's KitKat - is produced using palm oil from uncertified sources.

The Greenpeace investigation explains how peatlands in the Indonesian province of Riau (an area the size of Switzerland) store a massive 14.6 billion tons of carbon (2) - equivalent to one year's global greenhouse gas emissions. Further expansion for the production of palm oil for food and biofuels threatens to release this enormous store of carbon into the atmosphere.

UN figures predict that palm oil production is set to double - from its present 20.2 million tonnes a year to 40 million tonnes by 2030, and to triple by 2050 (3). Demand is now increasing at such a rate that companies are developing plantations on dense peatland swamp forests - intensely concentrated stores of carbon up to 15m deep. These areas are drained, dried out and set on fire to make way for oil palm crops, releasing gigantic levels of greenhouse gas in the process.

The investigation, conducted on the ground in Indonesia, reveals how a major palm oil producer is currently engaged in illegal activities including the large scale clearance and destruction of deep peatlands protected under Indonesian law (4).

The report shows how palm oil from companies engaged in forest and peatland destruction is then ‘laundered' through the entire supply chain, ending up with well known companies such as Unilever - which presides over the industry body charged with cleaning up the sector (5).

Responding to the report, John Sauven, Executive director of Greenpeace UK said:

"As this investigation shows, a handful of international corporations are ultimately responsible for slashing and burning Indonesia's peatland forests for products like food, fuel and fabric softener. Some of the best known brands in the UK are literally cooking the climate."

The UK government is now promoting the use of biofuels as a "green" alternative to conventional petrol and diesel but the report shows that using palm oil for biofuels will actually make climate change worse.

Under the UK's Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation, all petrol stations and fuel suppliers in the UK will be required by law to ensure that five percent of the fuel they sell contains biofuels by 2010. Palm oil is already being used by UK companies supplying biofuels. The destruction of forests and peatlands for biofuel production risks releasing far more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than the burning of conventional fossil fuels.

Sauven continued: "Trashing rainforests to grow biofuels is like trying to put out a fire with a petrol can. The UK Government has ignored this and introduced a biofuels obligation with no safety catch - meaning that there's nothing to stop the fruits of forest destruction ending up in our fuel tanks. That's simply a disaster for the world's climate."

NOTES TO EDITORS:

Forest destruction is responsible for about one fifth of global GHG emissions (6). Destruction of Indonesia's peatlands alone accounts for 4% of global annual GHG. The report concludes that an immediate moratorium on forest clearance and peatland degradation as well as the rehabilitation of degraded peatlands is the quickest, most effective way to slash Indonesia's GHG emissions.

Greenpeace calls on governments in Bali to agree to negotiate a funding mechanism to protect the world's remaining tropical forests as a critical component of the next phase of the Kyoto Protocol. The resulting reductions in emissions from deforestation must be additional to cuts in fossil fuel emission targets by developed countries.

To read the full report visit www.greenpeace.org.uk/cookingtheclimatereport

  1. Emissions from the destruction of Indonesia's peatlands represent 4% of global GHG emissions - 1.3Gt from burning, 0.5Gt from ongoing degradation. Source: Hooijer et al (2006): 29. Global emissions in 2004 were 49Gt. Source: IPCC WGIII (2007):3
  2. 14.6Gt of carbon. Wahyunto et al (2003): 34
  3. FAO (2006): 56
  4. Presidential Decree No. 32/1990, source: Walhi et al (2006). Presidential decree no 32/1990 on ‘Management of Protected Areas' 25 July 1990: Article 10 specifies that ‘upstream swamp and peatlands deeper than 3 metres should be protected'.
  5. Unilever presides over the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil, or RSPO - http://www.rspo.org/
  6. IPCC

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