A Malaysian government official affirmed the tropical country’s commitment to the environment in this op-ed published in The Star newspaper. Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong, Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities, emphasized that Malaysia is one of 148 countries that have ratified the Paris Climate Accord, the global agreement aimed at reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As of 2015, Malaysia has recorded a 33 percent reduction in GHG emissions intensity per unit of gross domestic product. Despite Malaysia’s progressive and eco-friendly approach, he wrote, “the palm oil industry has been wrongly singled out as an alleged culprit of global warming.” In his article, he explained why oil palm cultivation is not the problem. He also shared how the country’s new Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) initiative is helping address both global warming and biodiversity.
Livestock, not palm oil, carries environmental risk
Keong explained that methane is one of the main global warming culprits. Methane is approximately 30 times more potent as a heat-trapping gas than carbon dioxide. He referenced United Nations’ data which shows that the Earth’s 1.5 billion cows account for 65 percent of livestock methane emission. Studies have also identified livestock as the leading cause of deforestation, yet palm oil is often wrongly targeted. “At 3.45 billion hectares, pasture makes up 69 percent of global agriculture land, which stands at 5 billion hectares. In comparison, oil palm hectarage stands at 18.87 million hectares, or 0.38 percent of global agriculture land. And Malaysia’s oil palm footprint is merely 0.11 percent of global agriculture land at 5.74 million hectares,” he wrote.
Palm oil is the sustainable food security solution
Palm oil is uniquely positioned to responsibly fill the world’s growing demand for vegetable oil. “As at 2016, oil palm uses the least land area and yet produces the highest yield per hectare,” Keong wrote. “When you look at the four major oil crops in total, oil palm utilizes 9 percent of total land area but produces 39 percent of total oil. In contrast, soya uses 61 percent of total land area yet produces only 34 percent of total oil.”
Country-wide MSPO initiative demonstrates Malaysia’s commitment to the environment
For decades, the Malaysian’s palm oil industry has adhered to the three P’s of sustainability: people, planet and profit. “The palm oil industry is a key catalyst to alleviate poverty, ensure no one goes hungry and provide decent work and economic growth,” Keong wrote. The country is continuing its progressive and eco-friendly approach by mandating that all palm oil producers become MSPO certified by the end of 2019. According to Keong, this will, “help us address the issues of global warming and biodiversity of life on land.”