Palm Oil Plantations on Peat Soil No Longer Qualify for Clean Development Mechanism Carbon Credits

palm oil plantation photo

Palm oil plantation and processing plant, photo: Marufish via flickr

Good that this loophole's been closed: As Wetlands International reports agricultural plantations on peat soils--those in Southeast Asia for palm oil or other industrial agriculture are the perfect example--will no longer be supported by the Clean Development Mechanism. Until the rule change, made last week, biodiesel plantations established on so-called 'degraded lands' in developing nations were eligible to be used for carbon emission reduction credits by wealthy nations under the Kyoto Protocol, and the nation where the plantation was located could earn valuable carbon credits it could profit from.

The problem is that these plantations, even if new forest wasn't cleared, often result in marked increases in greenhouse gas emissions not reductions. The biofuel produced on them actually has several orders of magnitude greater net carbon emissions than diesel fuel produced from petroleum.

Wetlands International explains why:

In Southeast Asia, millions of hectares of peatlands are rapidly degrading by drainage for plantations including palm oil for biodiesel. This process exposes the organic carbon of the peat soils to the air, triggering biological processes that turn the organic carbon into carbon dioxide (CO2). As a result plantations on peatlands cause very high emissions; in the case of palm oil at least eight times as much than the use of fossil fuels. About 33% of all palm oil is on peat.

And video explaining the problem with palm oil, more broadly:

Why it took so long to close this loophole seems beyond me--and whether it actually slows land conversion is anyone's guess; mine is no--but it is indeed good news that this perverse incentive has been eliminated.

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More on Biofuels:
Palm Oil Plantations Store Even Less Carbon Than We Though, New Study Shows
Algae Biofuel Grown in Bioreactors Has 3.7x the Carbon Footprint of Petro-Diesel: Study
Biofuels Not Enough to Offset Damage Caused by Deforestation

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