The province of Central Kalimantan in Indonesia will have to review the operating permits of companies running palm oil plantations in the wake of a series of devastating forest and peat fires in 2015, after a recent court decision that Friends of the Earth is hailing as an “historic verdict in defence of forests and human rights.”
Seven Indonesian citizens filed the lawsuit in 2016 with support from Friends of the Earth Indonesia.
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“This verdict is important not just to us, but to future generations,” said Ari Rompas, director of WALHI Central Kalimantan. “The judge recognized that the environment is a heritage to be preserved for future generations. It is therefore important that the government does not waste time in appealing this verdict, but ensures that companies respect the law and stop the forest fires.”
The fires in 2015 caused an estimated 100,000 premature deaths in the region and released more carbon dioxide than the entire U.S. economy.
“While many of the world’s largest palm oil producers have pledged to voluntarily address the massive environmental and human rights impacts of their business, it’s clear that legal action is required to hold them accountable,” said FOE U.S. senior international forest campaigner Jeff Conant. “This decision by the court in Central Kalimantan is an historic step in ensuring the government does what’s needed to limit the damage from this sector.”
The region’s palm oil is a component in thousands of food and cosmetic products, as well as biofuels, Friends of the Earth reports. U.S. institutional investors in palm oil companies include Goldman Sachs, JPMorganChase, Vanguard, and pension fund managers TIAA and CalPERS. “This decision should also make it clear to the financiers of the sector that the risks of investment in palm oil continue unabated,” Conant said.
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