The palm oil industry is out of control as deforestation reaches record levels in the name of agricultural pursuits, and that’s why Peru became the second nation in South America to agree to end the practice by 2021.
Only Colombia had thus far entered into such an agreement, but as the Amazon in Brazil burns, Peru announced this week at the IX Expo Amazonica that it has done the same in an effort to reduce deforestation.
Deforestation has only increased in recent years, particularly in the Amazon after Brazilian President Jair Balsonaro eliminated regulations to give the fossil fuel industry and big agriculture the freedom to clear cut the rainforest at will even though it serves as the lungs of the world, taking in the most carbon dioxide out of our atmosphere while producing the most oxygen that we need to survive.
And now the balance is only taken a turn for the worse because a series of wildfires are burning the forest to the ground, which is incredibly convenient for industries that seek a land grab for profit, especially for cattle farming and mining.
In Peru, however, it’s the palm oil industry that is responsible for deforestation.
Tens of thousands of acres of rainforest in Peru have been destroyed to make way for big palm oil plantations, making the industry a threat to the environment and a driver of climate change.
In an effort to save the remaining rainforest, the National Wildlife Federation teamed up with indigenous peoples and local governments to draft an agreement to end deforestation caused by palm oil by 2021.
The Peruvian Palm Oil Producers’ Association (JUNPALMA) signed this agreement, giving environmentalists hope that other nations will join the effort to stop deforestation in their own backyards.
“This commitment is a momentous development for the people of Peru and the global effort to confront climate change,” National Wildlife Federation representative Kiryssa Kasprzyk said in a statement. “It underscores that we can feed the world without hurting biodiversity or clear-cutting tropical forests.”
Peruvian Palm Oil Producers’ Association general manager Gregorio Saenz also promoted the agreement.
“The National Wildlife Federation and its local partner, Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo, have worked with Peruvian palm oil Producers’ Association (JUNPALMA) and the country’s government, especially the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, for two years to get to this point, and we are committed to ensuring this agreement becomes a reality,” he said.
Both sides now hope to reach a formal agreement soon.
“There is a draft agreement that has been drawn up by the Ministry of Agriculture, JUNPALMA and civil society,” National Wildlife Federation spokesperson Mike Saccone told Mongabay. “[It] serves as a roadmap towards a formal agreement.”
Still, there is much work to be done, and the agreement won’t stop deforestation from occurring for the next two years, giving palm oil plantation owners more than enough time to clear cut thousands of acres in a last-minute land grab that could cripple the entire ecosystem.
However, the World Wildlife Foundation stresses that while the world must pressure the palm oil industry to change its ways and lobby governments to regulate the industry to prevent needless wanton destruction of rainforests, an outright boycott of palm oil could make things worse.
Avoiding palm oil could have worse effects because it might take support away from companies that are trying hard to improve the situation. This could encourage companies to use other products that may have even more impact on the environment. Palm oil is by far the most efficient vegetable oil to grow as it takes less land to produce than other vegetable oils.
And seeing as how many products contain palm oil, a boycott would be pretty hard to pull off anyway.
What we really need is to stop making agreements that won’t kick in for years and start making agreements that take effect immediately. The consequences to our planet and ourselves are too great to allow the same practices to continue until some future date when it could end up being too late for such agreements to make a difference. We need to end deforestation now, regardless of the costs to the agriculture and fossil fuel industries. The survival of the Earth is far more important.