JOURNAL MONITOR EDITION 12 : SUSTAINABLE OIL PALM PLANTATIONS ARE ABLE TO RESTORE AND REDUCE PEATLAND EMISSION
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At present, greenhouse gas emissions as a cause of global warming and climate change have become a problem and are drawing widespread attention from the international community. So many parties are competing to find the root of the problem to get solutions in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One of them is the study of Olivier et al. (2020) who identified the source of earth’s GHG emissions and found carbon emissions as the largest source of GHG emissions. These carbon emissions are not only generated from the fossil energy sector but also from the clearing (conversion of function) of carbon-rich land stock (High Carbon Stock).
Peatland especially in the tropics (tropical peatland) consist of organic components of wood residues or weathered plant parts that are very rich in carbon stocks and become an important carbon cycle for nature. Carbon stored in peatland can be lost from peatland either in the form of gas to emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) or dissolved organic carbon. Making drainage on peatland in the context of land use change causes the process of peat decomposition, where this process is the largest source of CO2 emissions from peatland.
The argument underlying environmentalists and anti-palm NGOs criticizes the use of peatland for oil palm cultivation. The conversion of peatland functions is considered to have an impact on increasing GHG emissions which causes global warming and climate change which is getting worse. The NGO allegations are wrong, because the presence of oil palm plantations on peatland is part of peat restoration while at the same time reducing peatland GHG emissions.
In addition to providing economic social benefits, oil palm plantations also contribute to adding peat biomass that sustainably. Study of Sabiham (2013) showed that the carbon stock of peatland is increasing with increasing age of oil palm plants, even the carbon stock in mature oil palm plantations on peatland is higher than the carbon stock of secondary peat forests (degraded peatland).
Many studies have also proven that GHG emissions produced by oil palm plantations cultivated on peatland are around 31.4-57 tons CO2/hectare/year, or lower than the GHG emissions of secondary peat (degraded peat land) which reach 127 tons CO2/hectare/year. The IPCC study (2014) also stated that emissions from the peat decomposition process produced by oil palm plantations were 40 t CO2/ha/year, lower than emissions from the peat decomposition process produced by plantations on peatland and agriculture on peatland both moor or mixed (agroforestry) reached 51 t CO2/ha/year.
These empirical facts become evidence that the allegations of anti-palm NGOs against oil palm plantations on peatland are untrue. Oil palm plantations on peatland do not cause an increase in peatland greenhouse gas emissions, and on the contrary the oil palm plantations reduce peatland greenhouse gas emissions. With proper sustainable cultivation carried out on peatland, it will produce oil palm plantations which are part of the development of economically, ecologically and socially sustainable in Indonesia.