IIED | 30 August 2023
Climate justice in trade: Environment, rights and the palm oil dispute between Indonesia and the European Union
by Lorenzo Cotula
While Europeans use palm oil products to fuel their cars, many in Indonesia are deprived of their rights, suffer and even die from the processes of producing palm oil
Ferdi Kurnianto, Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago AMAN), Central Kalimantan, Indonesia
Ferdi Kurnianto advocates for the rights of Indigenous Peoples affected by oil palm plantations in Indonesia’s Central Kalimantan province, acting as the local coordinator for the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN). In this sentence, he captures some of the complexities of climate justice in our interconnected world.
With pressures on ecosystems drawing closer to a tipping point, governments are taking steps to promote ‘greener’ economies. But in their efforts to reduce carbon emissions, high-consumption states have often outsourced harmful activities without really questioning unsustainable consumption, helped by trade arrangements that connect consumers with producers in far-away places.
To lessen its dependence on fossil fuels for cars and trucks, the European Union (EU) promoted the use of ‘biofuels’, such as biodiesel from palm oil imports – and this contributed to the spread of the plantations in Indonesia.
A joint initiative between IIED and the Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) provided opportunities to interrogate trade rules from a climate justice perspective, honing in on palm oil trading between Indonesia and Europe.
The findings connect the concerns and aspirations of communities affected by oil palm cultivation in Central Kalimantan to European policies and international trade talks. They also highlight ways to make trade arrangements more responsive to the people who most bear their impacts.