Our society faces the pressing challenge of increasing agricultural production while minimizing negative consequences on ecosystems and the global climate. Indonesia, which has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from deforestation while doubling production of several major agricultural commodities, exemplifies this challenge. Here we focus on palm oil, the world's most abundant vegetable oil and a commodity that has contributed significantly to Indonesia's economy. Most oil palm expansion in the country has occurred at the expense of forests, resulting in significant GHG emissions. We examine the extent to which land management policies can resolve the apparently conflicting goals of oil palm expansion and GHG mitigation in Kalimantan, a major oil palm growing region of Indonesia. Using a logistic regression model to predict the locations of new oil palm between 2010 and 2020 we evaluate the impacts of six alternative policy scenarios on future emissions. We estimate net emissions of 128.4-211.4 MtCO2 yr(-1) under business as usual expansion of oil palm plantations. The impact of diverting new plantations to low carbon stock land depends on the design of the policy. We estimate that emissions can be reduced by 9-10% by extending the current moratorium on new concessions in primary forests and peat lands, 35% by limiting expansion on all peat and forestlands, 46% by limiting expansion to areas with moderate carbon stocks, and 55-60% by limiting expansion to areas with low carbon stocks. Our results suggest that these policies would reduce oil palm profits only moderately but would vary greatly in terms of cost-effectiveness of emissions reductions. We conclude that a carefully designed and implemented oil palm expansion plan can contribute significantly towards Indonesia's national emissions mitigation goal, while allowing oil palm area to double.
Reconciling oil palm expansion and climate change mitigation in Kalimantan, Indonesia