Peat and High Carbon Stock (HCS)
There are opportunities to expand palm oil operations onto land that has already been degraded. However, non-degraded areas, such as peatlands and high carbon stock forests, hold large amounts of carbon and biodiversity that should not be cleared. Peatland can store significant amounts of carbon – as much as 18 to 28 times more than aboveground forests. About three-quarters of the world’s tropical peatland carbon is stored in South East Asia, which is equivalent to the carbon stored in the vegetation of the Amazon forest. In order to clear land for new palm oil plantations, peatlands in South East Asia are often drained and burned.
The High Carbon Stock (HCS) approach is used to distinguish between forest with high carbon and biodiversity value that should be protected, and scrub or open land that may be considered available for development under this globally recognised approach. HCS forests should be protected when companies plan new palm oil developments.
Both peatlands and HCS forests are vital to climate change mitigation due to their role in storing carbon. Financial institutions can help by requiring companies they finance to have policies in place to protect High Carbon Stock land and peatlands of any depth.
- RSPO manual on Best Management Practices (BMP) for existing Oil Palm Cultivation on Peat (2012)
- The High Carbon Stock Approach