Peatland protection has been one of the most urgent issues facing palm oil producing countries and it has been a key area of focus and discussion for RSPO and its stakeholders over the last few years, and particularly with the recent P&C review.
Parish, who is a former co-chair of the RSPO Peatland Working Group, said that under the new P&C which had been worked on for about two years and which will be the subject of a vote at the 15th RSPO General Assembly on Thursday, all member companies will also have to report on peatland under their management so that a clear database can be built.
“All RSPO member company also need to document and shares to the RSPO secretariate all peatlands under their management in existing and new development areas as of November 2018. so that we have a clear database, a clear understanding,” he said.
Parish said that so far, RSPO did not have such a clear picture on peatland coverage and use and could not respond to queries the extent of planted peatlands or conserved ones.
“All remaining unplanted peatlands areas as of Friday need to be designated as peatland conservation areas and managed in an incubated manner with HCV (Hign Conservation Value) and HCS (High Carbon Stock( areas,” he added.
He said that all companies need to look at phasing out their plantation on peat 40 years before they reached the so-called drainage limit, a time when you can no longer drain by gravity and when the dangers of floodings and saline intrusion becomes real.
“But you can phase out in two ways. Phase out and rehabilitate back to natural vegetation, or phase out, phase in other crops” which are more suitable to grow in soils like peat, such as sago and Jelutung, Parish said.
If the new P&C is approved in the vote on Thursday, from next January, companies should do an assessment of all areas on peat that are planned for replanting in the next five years, so that they can then look at how to phase them out.
To further assist with overcoming the challenges of fire, haze, subsidence and flooding from cultivating on peatlands, and to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the proposed P&C also requires all existing planting on peat to adhere to the latest version of RSPO Manual on Best Management Practices for Existing Oil Palm Cultivation on Peat.
In a RSPO document, the multi-stakeholder organisation said that with the new proposed criterion on peatland protection and management under the proposed R&C, three immediate guidance documents needs to be produced or updated — the RSPO Drainabilkity Assessment Guidelines, the RSPO Manual on Best Management Practices for existing oil palm cultivation on peat and an RSPO manual on Best Management Practices for management and rehabilitation of natural vegetation associated with oil palm cultivation on peat.
“RSPO acknowledges the need to have separate relevant guidance documents relating to peatland protection and management for smallholders to fully recognize the challenge of reaching 100 percent sustainable palm oil cultivation where oil palm, the environment, and local communities can co-exist in harmony,” the documents added.