To grow an oil palm plantation, you need cheap land and a tropical climate. Both can be found in Indonesia and Malaysia, the two global hotspots for growing oil palm trees.
We’re not just talking about a small “majority”. These two countries alone meet about 85-90% of the global demand for palm oil which was 45.85 million tons in 2010. While this industry could be a positive source of income to the peoples of these countries, the way in which these industries have developed, have little to do with encouraging sustainable development. Instead, it is all to do with rapid destruction of tropical forests and peatlands by large multinational companies. These are the very same companies who sell you the shampoo you wash your hair with and the candy bars you eat. But many of them are starting to work toward being more sustainable – for starters not ripping up forests and burning peatlands for new land to grow palm oil (See Day 8).
Right now, about 2.4 Million Hectares of oil palm plantations are grown on land that used to be a peatland (26% of which is in Malaysia, 73% in Indonesia) – this means that about 20% of all plantations are on peatlands!
That makes this region a “hotspot” indeed: when peat swamps are drained and burned they emit enormous amounts of greenhouse gases (GHGs). This has turned non-industrialized Indonesia into the 3rd largest source of GHGs on the planet – after only the US and China!!
To learn more about the big picture: