Land-grabbing and the climate crisis are strongly linked to palm oil

Land-grabbing and the climate crisis are strongly linked to palm oil

A corporate monopoly for control over land and resources for palm oil must be dismantled immediately to give humanity, animals and our natural world a fighting chance for survival and to reverse the climate crisis. In Asia, many indigenous peoples are now joining forces and rising up to resist this corruption and ecocide.

Corporate monopolies drive #landgrabbing for #palmoil. To give #indigenous peoples, animals and #nature a fighting chance, we must join together and resist. “Sustainable” palm oil is a lie. #Boycottpalmoil and #Boycott4Wildlife

A report by @FAO shows that 90% of #deforestation is for agriculture by global co’s like #Cargill, #Wilmar and #SimeDarby. Their monopolies drive #indigenous #landgrabbing for #palmoil. Take action and #Boycottpalmoil #Boycott4Wildlife

Originally written by Arnold Padilla for as ‘Land Monopoly and Climate Crisis: A Look at Asia’. Read the original article. Published November 17, 2022. Arnold Padilla is the coordinator of the Food Sovereignty Program of PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) and its “No Land, No Life” campaign against land grabbing.

Some closely following the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) say that the 27th session of its Conference of the Parties (COP27) puts more attention on food and agriculture than in previous years.

For instance, the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES) noted that the climate gathering in Egypt features four pavilions and about 200 events on food and farming. But these are still outside official negotiations, where states do the actual policymaking and commitments.

No meaningful focus at COP27 on accountability of industrial farming

It is apparent in the discussions that matter in the COP process that there is no meaningful focus on the role and accountability of corporate farming in warming the planet.

The industrial food system (i.e., agriculture and land use/land-use change activities plus supply chain activities like retail, transport, consumption, fuel production, waste management, industrial processes and packaging) contributes about 34% to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, with an estimated environmental cost of US$ 3 trillion annually.

Yet, addressing and reversing the climate impacts of corporate farming through radical food systems transformation is not a priority among the COP27 negotiators.

6 out of 10 of the worst affected countries for climate change are in Asia

  • For Asia, the urgency of the climate crisis cannot be overemphasised. Six of the ten worst affected countries by climate change in the past two decades are in Asia (i.e., Myanmar, Philippines, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Thailand, and Nepal).
  • This year alone, heavy monsoon rains caused unprecedented flooding in Pakistan, affecting 33 million people and inflicting over US$ 30 billion in damages and economic losses.
  • Consecutive typhoons – Noru and Nalgae – hit the Philippines in the two months leading to COP27.
  • These disasters affected more than four million people, displaced more than 241,000, left more than 150 dead, and caused more than US$50 million in damages to agriculture alone.

Land monopoly: an indispensable requirement of corporate farming

Land monopoly, an indispensable requirement of corporate farming, creates favorable conditions for the climate crisis to persist and worsen. Corporate monoculture plantations, one of the most visible expressions of land monopoly since colonial times, are among the significant contributors to the existential crisis that the world faces today.


Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO): 90% of global deforestation is driven by agriculture

Big agribusiness firms are cutting down massive swathes of forests for conversion into industrial plantations and livestock grazing. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that agricultural expansion drove almost 90 percent of global deforestation in the past two decades.

In Asia, nearly 80 percent of deforestation during the same period is due to conversion into croplands, mainly by corporate plantations, based on the UN body’s study.

Independent studies affirm this, such as the data compiled and analysed by the Land Matrix (a collaboration of civil society, farmers’ groups, and academic research institutions) on large-scale land acquisitions.

These refer to lands in low and middle-income countries acquired by foreign and local investors through purchase, lease or concession for agricultural production, timber extraction, carbon trading, industry, renewable energy production, conservation, and tourism. Their 2021 report noted that 964 land deals caused the deforestation of almost two million hectares between 2000 and 2019.

In East Asia and the Pacific, the Land Matrix reported that about 74 percent of the areas around the locations of land deals were still forested in 2000. By 2019, that number declined to 58 percent, mainly due to oil palm expansions in Malaysia and Indonesia and new agricultural frontiers in Cambodia, China, Laos, and Vietnam.

Clearing forests releases CO2 and contributes to rising temperatures

Clearing the forests releases the carbon dioxide (CO2) they store into the atmosphere, contributing to rising global temperatures.

According to one study, deforestation – which has already claimed 420 million hectares of forests in the last 30 years – can also affect temperatures through its effect on various physical processes of nature. For example, cutting down trees eliminates the forests’ ability to absorb water from the soil and release it into the air as moisture and cool the atmosphere.

Perpetuating plunder

At COP27, the world’s largest transnational food companies led by Cargill, Bunge, and Archer Daniels Midland, among others, launched a roadmap to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains for soy, beef, and palm oil by 2025.

However, these companies, which have already made similar pledges in the past only to fall short, continue to be implicated in the massive destruction of forests, like Cargill in the Amazon.

Related: New research: Indirect sourcing of up to 90% of palm oil from Cargill, Wilmar, Musim Mas cannot be traced and is linked to deforestation

research opaque palm oil sourcing 2022
Read more: New research: Indirect sourcing of up to 90% of palm oil from Cargill, Wilmar, Musim Mas cannot be traced and is linked to deforestation

Even worse, they use the climate crisis to legitimise and perpetuate resource grabbing, plunder, and land monopoly. One of the supposed climate solutions that big corporations tend to rally around is planting “new forests”.

However, the problem is that these large-scale tree-planting efforts are often a pretext to promote corporate plantations.

Based on another estimate, 45% of oil palm plantations were built in forest areas in Southeast Asia, considered the global hotspot of palm-driven deforestation.

Palm oil is considered the fastest-growing commodity crop worldwide, requiring an ever-expanding mass of arable lands and forests. FAO data shows that the size of land devoted to oil palm plantations in the past four decades ballooned by more than 571 percent – from 4.28 million hectares in 1980 to 28.74 million in 2020.

Wilmar responsible for palm oil deforestation despite supposedly using "sustainable" palm oil.
Wilmar responsible for palm oil deforestation despite supposedly using “sustainable” palm oil.

Climate justice vs. land monopoly

Corporate plantations – motivated by profits for their investors that include the world’s wealthiest people and largest investment firms from mostly the industrialised countries – produce commodities dictated by the global market’s needs, not by the food security requirements and overall development agenda of mostly the underdeveloped countries and local communities where they are built often in violent ways. These big capitalists and finance oligarchs are oblivious to their operations’ harsh socioeconomic and environmental impacts.

Friends of the Earth Africa- RSPO greenwashing human rights

Aside from degrading or destroying the forests to establish monoculture, export-oriented industrial farms, corporate land monopolies also perpetuate the use of massive amounts of climate-warming fossil fuels by promoting harmful agrochemicals like synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and encouraging long supply chains. It is not a coincidence that as corporate plantations, agrochemicals such as pesticides have also soared by 80 percent in the past three decades.

Agroecological, localised, and diversified food systems offer sustainable and climate-friendly alternatives, as much evidence suggests, but ultimately, decisions on how to use and manage the world’s forests and farmlands for the benefit of the greatest majority without harming the people and planet rest on the question of who effectively controls these resources.

From colonialism to modern imperialism today, such control has been taken away from the indigenous and peasant communities, grabbed and monopolised by and for commercial interests.

The people rising for climate justice necessitates the struggle to dismantle this corporate monopoly control over land and resources and give humanity a fighting chance to survive and reverse the climate crisis.

Read more stories about human rights and land-grabbing in the palm oil industry and other extractive industries

Pictured: Mushrooms on the forest floor by Wooter Penning for Pexels

An aerial view of a burning deforested piece of land next to a strip of rainforest
Forests are still being bulldozed to make way for agricultural land for palm oil and beef production. Richard Whitcombe/Shutterstock

Written by Arnold Padilla for as ‘Land Monopoly and Climate Crisis: A Look at Asia’. Read the original article. Published November 17, 2022. Arnold Padilla is the coordinator of the Food Sovereignty Program of PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) and its “No Land, No Life” campaign against land grabbing.


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Published by Palm Oil Detectives

Hi, I’m Palm Oil Detective’s Editor in Chief. Palm Oil Detectives is partly a consumer website about palm oil in products and partly an online community for writers, scientists, conservationists, artists and musicians to showcase their work and express their love for endangered species. I have a strong voice for creatures great and small threatened by deforestation. With our collective power we can shift the greed of the retail and industrial agriculture sectors and through strong campaigning we can stop them cutting down forests. Be bold! Be courageous! Join the #Boycott4Wildlife and stand up for the animals with your supermarket choices

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