Greenpeace challenges palm oil producers, the e-waste problem in China and the UN climate fund finds a home, at last

Palm oil firms respond to deforestation challenge

In a series of efforts to curb the palm oil industry’s detrimental environmental and social practices, Greenpeace has launched its latest initiative: the Tiger Challenge. Greenpeace is challenging companies to commit to deforestation-free palm oil. “The Tiger Challenge is a good palm oil contest, asking companies to stop making consumers inadvertent participants in forest destruction and start sourcing palm oil in a more responsible way,” says Areeba Hamid, forest campaigner at Greenpeace International.

Palm oil is a cheap, high yield vegetable oil. It is between six and 10 times higher in yield than its nearest alternative. However, an irresponsible palm oil industry has resulted in, campaigners say, irreversible environmental damage. Nevertheless, Hamid believes responsible palm oil production is possible.

Mondelez International, one of the world’s largest food companies, has become the first to respond to the Tiger Challenge. “Mondelez, maker of Oreo cookies and Cadbury chocolate, took the first step by announcing new commitments, especially on no deforestation,” Hamid says. As part of these commitments, Mondelez has acknowledged the need for a more robust policy to prevent forest destruction in its supply chains.

More recently, Wilmar, the world’s largest palm oil trader, announced a new “no deforestation, no peat, no exploitation” policy. Greenpeace believes Wilmar’s commitment potentially represents a real step towards industry transformation. “With Wilmar’s announcement of a policy that commits to trading and producing oil responsibly, the onus of sourcing oil for everyday products that is free from forest destruction now lies with these companies,” Hamid says.

Jeff Conant, international forest campaigner at Friends of the Earth, says: “If Wilmar is true to its word and implements this policy across its supply chain, a big if given the company’s wide reach and chequered history, it could significantly reduce the harm that is generated by the palm oil industry.”

China’s e-waste conundrum

A leading producer and consumer of electrical and electronic equipment, China faces an overwhelming surge in e-waste. Over the next four years, millions of Chinese households will be dumping their first televisions, fridges, computers and other electronic devices, to replace them with newer models.

Already having to deal with an estimated 20% annual rise in domestically generated e-waste, China is also a primary destination for global e-waste. “Apart from the domestic generation of e-waste, a remarkable amount of e-waste is imported into China to meet the demand for second-hand equipment and for secondary resources,” says Ruediger Kuehr, head of the UN University Institute for Sustainability and Peace. “China now appears to be the largest e-waste dumping site in the world, receiving shipments from the US, Europe and neighbouring Asian countries.”

Despite the fact that the Chinese government banned the import of e-waste in 2000, large volumes of imported e-waste and second-hand electrical and electronic equipment continue to flow into the country. As a result, China will be facing an exacerbated environmental and social problem. The devices being dumped contain hazardous materials and toxic substances, harmful to both human and environmental welfare. Nevertheless, many are making their living through informal, often primitive e-waste recycling in countries such as China, India and Bangladesh.

To remedy this incoming wave of e-waste faced by what has been dubbed the electronic wastebasket of the world, Kuehr believes there is no one solution. “The reverse supply chain of electrical and electronic equipment is very complex, consisting of many steps and is global in nature,” he says. He believes that a key step towards a sustainable solution is the closing of loops or leakages from the system, adding that awareness is an important factor to ensure the highest possible return and collection rates. “This is the biggest challenge in [developed] countries, even with existing e-waste management systems.”

South Korea hosts climate fund

The UN Green Climate Fund, established in 2010 at the COP 16 UN climate summit in Mexico, has moved beyond its interim phase to its permanent headquarters in South Korea’s “smart city”, Songdo.

The fund, which was temporarily hosted in Bonn, Germany, has been headquartered in a new green building. Set up to help achieve the objectives of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the fund aims to raise $100bn to facilitate sustainable development projects. By financing solar, wind and other renewable energy projects in developing countries, the fund will encourage lower-emissions development while ensuring growth and financial returns.

“In the Philippines, we have recently experienced in a painful manner why it is so urgent to act on climate change,” says Jose Maria Sarte Salceda, co-chair of the fund’s board. “I am therefore pleased that the fund is on track to start its resource mobilisation in 2014 so that we can get the money flowing to the countries in greatest need.” 

Cadbury  China  deforestation  Friends of the Earth International  Greenpeace  Mondelez  ngo news  ngo roundup  NGOwatch  Palm Oil  supply chain  UN Green Climate Fund 

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