Friends of the Earth
Sarawak was the focus of the international tropical timber trade campaign from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s when the Penan and its other indigenous communities blockaded logging roads to stop logging companies from destroying their forests and called upon the international community to support their cause.
The European Parliament back then responded by passing several resolutions, calling upon Malaysia to stop destructive logging and human rights violations against its indigenous peoples.
Despite this, Europe remained a ready customer for Malaysian tropical timber, no matter how it was produced or how the industry failed to take into account the rights of local communities. In Sarawak today, indigenous communities, especially the Penan, are more impoverished than ever, while forests are disappearing quickly. In 2008, no credible forest certification is in place.
This report puts the focus once again on Sarawak. Having overexploited its timber resources resulting in the depletion of its forests, Sarawak has now embarked on the development of large- scale monoculture plantations. The main players in this sector are often the same business groups that operate in the logging industry.
A decisive role is played by the Malaysian oil palm lobby, which supports the massive large-scale corporate-driven development, and aggressively markets Malaysian palm oil abroad. At the same time, an additional market for edible oils is being created by European and American ambitions for bio-energy. Increasing quantities of palm oil are being used along with other oils to provide feedstock for fuel, heat and electricity production. This is a major driver of plantation expansion in Malaysia. Vast areas of forests, including peat lands and native customary territories, foremost in the state of Sarawak, are being converted to establish new oil palm plantations that will supply future markets for bio-energy.
Right now, policy makers in Europe are drafting new legislation to increase the use of biofuels in road transport to 10 per cent by 2020. While these targets will do little to prevent climate change, replacing one unsustainable raw material with another, they also fail to address the underlying causes of wasteful practice and unsustainable levels of consumption in European transport. Necessary steps, such as tough legislation on car engine efficiency, investment in public transport and the reduction of transport needs, have been postponed or abandoned. The transition to a low-carbon economy is delayed.
As it stands, the EU’s reluctance to admit that the biofuel targets for 2020 were a mistake is coupled by the Malaysian government’s reluctance to acknowledge and address serious sustainability issues in the palm oil sector.
The Malaysian palm oil lobby tours Europe and other markets to make decision makers, buyers and customers believe that “Malaysian palm oil is sustainable”. The Malaysian Palm Oil Council appears to have little hesitation in resorting to questionable claims in order to discredit doubts about destructive practices in its palm oil sector.
With this report, Friends of the Earth groups from Malaysia and Europe are confronting the misleading
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