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Indonesia could plant 14.5m ha of oil palm in Borneo without further deforestation

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Indonesia could establish some 14.5 million hectares of oil palm plantations in Borneo without needing to clear rainforest or high-carbon peatlands, finds a new interactive mapping tool developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI).

The tool, unveiled at the opening of the tenth meeting of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), aims to highlight specific areas in Indonesian Borneo — also known as Kalimantan — where oil palm developers could potentially establish “sustainable” oil palm plantations. These exclude forests, wetlands, and places that have been deforested since 2005, the cut-off for date for plantations to qualify for RSPO certification.

WRI also launched a “Forest Cover Analyzer” that provides maps of deforestation that has occurred on an annual basis in Kalimantan since 2001.

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“The ‘Suitability Mapper’ can help companies and government planners for the first time ever use WRI’s maps and analysis find potential sites for sustainable palm oil production and plan field assessments for further investigation,” said WRI in a statement. “The ‘Forest Cover Analyzer’ provides a unique set of tools to help buyers, investors, and governments strengthen incentives for avoiding deforestation when developing new plantations.”

The tools allow users to set parameters to find sites with specific characteristics, a function that WRI’s Beth Gingold says will help growers “identify potentially suitable sites for sustainable palm oil production” and the government “assess where deforestation has occurred in the past.”

Screenshot of deforestation from the Forest Cover Analyzer

She adds that investors can determine whether proposed concessions are located in at-risk areas, including rainforests and peatlands.

“Across the entire industry, these tools can really inform the way promote sustainable palm oil to reduce deforestation.”

While the tools are presently available only for Kalimantan, WRI intends to expand coverage to other parts of Indonesia where oil palm is fast-expanding at the expense of forests. WRI is also developing advanced mapping tools on land use, tenure, concessions, and forest cover.

Indonesia has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world. Palm oil production is estimated to drive roughly 50 percent peatlands and 25 percent forest conversion in the country.

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