Round Table Plantations Sector: First Session
Plantations Sector Roundtables: Can Malaysia Achieve Net Zero Carbon by 2050?
Roundtable 1: Monitoring, Reporting and Verification on Wednesday 4 August 2021
The recording of the session is available here. Register for the Round Table series here, past Round Table events available at the CGM blog and YouTube channel.
This post is based on the 1st of 3 plantation sector-based roundtables involving sustainability experts to discuss the unique challenges and opportunities faced by the sector.
The roundtable attracted more than 80 industry participants, was expertly moderated by Dr. Gary Theseira of Malaysian Green Technology and Climate Change Centre (MGTC) and involved the following panellists:
· Dr. Surina Ismail, Group Head of Sustainability, IOI Corporation Berhad
· Mr. Puvan Selvanathan, CEO, Bluenumber
· Mr. Olivier Tichit, Director of Sustainable Supply Chain, Musim Mas Group
Images of forest fires in Oregon and floods in Germany which occurred very recently, shared by Mr. Puvan Selvanathan, set the opening for the Plantation Sector Roundtable organised by CEO Action Network (CAN) and Climate Governance Malaysia (CGM) on 4 August 2021 with the theme “CAN Malaysia achieve net zero emissions by 2050?”
One of the tools developed at Bluenumber has enjoyed renewed interest which allows for monitoring of mills from epicentres of fires against a 50Km sourcing radius and mapped to the sustainability claims of mill owners and associated companies such as customers.
"MRV has become "weaponised" by governments who want to show their electorates that they are on the "night side" of climate justice and are responding effective to the threats to lifestyles in North America, Europe and India; that is going to inform the structure of our approach to climate change." Mr. Puvan Selvanathan
Dr. Surina felt that a low-hanging fruit in getting the industry to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 is to incorporate it into the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification as it reaches almost every single player across the value chain – from growers to millers.
“The goal should be that the certification will now mean that the player is achieving net-zero emissions, which will need to be monitored and audited.” Dr Surina Ismail
Mr. Olivier emphasized that the ‘middle-men’ or aggregators have a vital role to play particularly with smallholders.
“They are close to the field, the producers.. and hence data. The question is how do we integrate them into the issue? They have to be like a service provider.” Mr Olivier Tichit
While measurement, reporting and validation (MRV) are integral towards sustainability and transitioning to net zero pathways, Puvan warned that “MRVs have become weaponised by governments seeking to demonstrate to their citizens that they are on the right side of the fight against climate change”.
The role of MRVs and its intended users need to be clearly understood as the palm industry players balance between providing transparency of (sustainability) claims against guarding against the misuse of such information.
A central issue highlighted by all the panellists as well as online participants was that the communication efforts by the palm sector on the strength of its sustainability practices – at an organization and industry level – were well short of what’s needed.
Palm oil is the highest-yielding vegetable oil crop as it needs less than half the land required by other crops to produce the same amount of oil. The lobbying power, in contrast, of competing interest groups is vast.
Coordinated communication strategies, between businesses and government, will need to be vastly improved in order to tackle this issue. The panellists also felt strongly that enforcement actions needed to be strengthened to ensure that sound sustainability practices were consistently adopted throughout the industry.
Presentation deck: Puvan Selvanathan (Bluenumber)