Claire's blog

Palm oil - take action on this burning issue


(See Greenpeace blog for original photos)

Fires have been raging across Indonesia in recent weeks. We don't know exactly who started them, but we know that palm oil and paper companies have created the perfect conditions for them to flourish. Peatland is normally waterlogged and therefore very hard to ignite. But these companies have been draining Sumatra's peatlands to make way for plantations. When dry, peat is a perfect fuel and very hard to extinguish. But the destruction of habitat for endangered species, human harm and massive release of carbon dioxide caused by these fires is only the latest stage in the ongoing forest devastation by palm oil companies.

There are three campaigns that need support right now - take action today:

MEPs vote on biofuels 10 July

Campaign to stop palm oil burning in Battersea power station - public meeting 10 July

Stop Herakles plantation in Cameroon

More about palm oil and deforestation

Palm oil plantations are the main driver for deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia, which account for 86 percent of global production of palm oil. Palm oil is found in many food products, toiletries and cosmetics. It is also burned as a fuel - for transport and for electricity generation.

The rainforests and peatlands of Indonesia and other tropical countries hold tremendous terrestrial carbon stocks, which are lost to the atmosphere when land is cleared to make way for oil palm plantations. This deforestation has made Indonesia the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China. Burning palm oil causes more greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuels once the direct and indirect impacts on forests and peatlands are taken into account. The plantations also threaten species such as the orang utan with extinction and have been linked to forced displacement and human rights violations.

Fracking facts: Ten things you need to know about shale gas

Shale gas is methane (natural gas) which is trapped in impermeable shale rock deep underground. The gas cannot flow through the shale, so simply drilling a well, as you would for conventional natural gas, is not enough. The shale rock must be cracked to free the gas, so large quantities of water, sand, and a range of chemicals are pumped in under high pressure (hydraulic fracturing or 'fracking'). Tens or hundreds as many wells are needed to produce as much gas as in a conventional gas field.

Current government policies, driven in particular by the Chancellor, George Osborne, promote shale gas as a solution to the UK's energy needs. But the facts suggest otherwise:

1. Proven global reserves amount to five times as much fossil fuel as could be burnt between now and 2050 and keep under 2°C of global warming. This basic fact is frustratingly often absent in media discussions about exploiting about yet another source to exploit.

2. Without effective policies to limit carbon emissions there is no reason to think that shale gas in Europe will push out coal – it is just as likely to compete with renewables.

3. There is a big question mark over whether shale gas exploitation is actually any better for the climate than coal burning. It all depends on how much gas leaks out during the process, since methane is a shorter lived but much more powerful greenhouse gas compared to CO2.

Two degree limit: a dangerous way to think about climate change?


Photo by Flickr user Eladesor

The idea that any warming up to two degrees is ‘safe’ has shaped not just discussions on climate change, but the process of international negotiations. The Campaign against Climate Change has always tried to be clear that significant harm will take place well before this, and that we must consider the risk of triggering positive feedbacks such as the release of methane from Arctic melt.