World Leading Experts Embark on High Carbon Stock Study

Kuala Lumpur, 5 November 2014 - A team of leading experts has been appointed to undertake a comprehensive, independent and scientifically robust Study on what constitutes high carbon stock forests in the context of their conversion to oil palm plantations. A detailed description of the Study can be found at

The Study will take into account socio-economic considerations, including the rights of nations’ and peoples’ to development. The team is made up of acknowledged experts in different academic areas, who will together form the Technical Committee for the High Carbon Stock (HCS) Study. The Technical Committee is chaired by Chief Research Scientist at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Dr John Raison, and is made up of:
  • Dr Jerome Chave of Laboratoire Evolution et Diversité Biologique, leading above and below ground biomass studies;
  • Dr Hans Joosten of University of Greifswald, leading soil carbon studies;
  • Dr Florian Siegert of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, leading remote sensing work;
  • Dr Ruth DeFries of Columbia University; leading the socio-economic and sustainable development aspects of the study, together with
  • Dr Philippa Atkinson; author, consultant and researcher specialising in Liberia and the West African sub-region; and
  • Goh Kah Joo of Applied Agricultural Resources Sdn Bhd, who will provide insights into the global oil palm industry.
The Technical Committee will be supported by a team of Research Consultants. The Technical Committee will provide guidance to, and monitor the progress of these Research Consultants in undertaking the in-depth scientific analyses required.

The Technical Committee will prepare a draft synthesis report based on the research done, and provide recommendations for consideration by a wide range of stakeholders, including governments on:
  • A definition of HCS forests that is based on potential GHG emissions from biomass and soils; as well as a practical method for identifying and delineating HCS forests on the ground;
  • Suggested threshold values for GHG emissions from HCS forests, that take account of the regional socio-economic context in Southeast Asian and African countries where new oil palm developments are planned; and
  • Guidance on how to accommodate the rights and livelihoods of local communities and indigenous peoples when implementing a future HCS approach to land use planning.
The draft synthesis report will be open to review and comment during a 2-month consultation period in mid-2015. The Technical Committee will independently finalise its report after considering feedback from that process.

The first Technical Committee meeting will also include a representative of the HCS Approach Steering Group, and Marcus Colchester representing the human rights organisation, Forest Peoples Programme, who will both provide their insights and experience to the research work.

Throughout the duration of the Study, Dr John Raison, who is also Co-chair of the Steering Committee charged with the task of overseeing the Study, will provide regular updates on the progress of the work to the Steering Committee. Steering Committee members are some of the world’s largest palm oil producers, such as Asian Agri, IOI Corporation Berhad, Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad, Musim Mas Group and Sime Darby Plantation; global agribusiness groups Cargill and Wilmar International; and consumer-goods company Unilever. The palm oil producing companies have all agreed to set aside areas that could be considered to contain high levels of carbon stock, whilst the Study is being conducted.

Observers to the Steering Committee include representatives from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), IDH, The Sustainable Trade Initiative, Neste Oil, the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB), Proforest and the Global Environment Centre (GEC), who will all actively contribute to ensure a transparent, objective and holistic approach.

Once the findings of the Study have been released, Signatories of the Sustainable Palm Oil Manifesto shall adopt these findings across their operations and supply chains. All of the Signatories’ direct suppliers are required to comply with the RSPO’s Principles and Criteria, and to take remedial action to correct any violations. Signatories will not do business with serious repeat violators of the RSPO’s Principles and Criteria.
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