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The High Carbon Stock Science Study

Type of Publication: Research Report

Date of Publication: December 2015

Organizations: Technical Committee of High Carbon Stock

This study proposes a new pathway, HCS+, to solving the potential problems arising from the conversion of tropical forests to oil palm plantations. There is wide agreement that High Carbon Stock (HCS) forests should be protected. These forests store large amounts of carbon that are released by conversion – accelerating climate change. Just as important, these forests provide livelihoods for local people. They are also home to a wide variety of animal and plant species – many of them endangered – and provide invaluable ecosystem services to humanity.

Existing policies to protect HCS forests (often summed up under the label ‘No Deforestation’) have laudable aims. But they are proving very difficult to put into action in the real world. Part of the problem is lack of agreement on how to define forests and deforestation (Box 1).

The principal reason for the difficulty in implementing ‘No Deforestation’ commitments is that the governments responsible for alleviating poverty in rural areas see conversion of tropical forests as a pathway to development. Many involved in the governments of Malaysia and Indonesia, for example, see the ‘No Deforestation’ approach as the equivalent, in practice, of ‘no development’.

The HCS+ methodology offers the possibility of delivering palm oil development that:

  • Ensures carbon neutrality and contributes to protecting essential non-carbon forest values;
  • Protects human rights and improves welfare;
  • Is economically viable, and acceptable to key stakeholders including governments, local communities and companies undertaking new developments.

HCS+ makes it possible to achieve these goals while also allowing the carefully planned conversion of some limited areas of forest to oil palm. This suggestion may – initially at least – alarm those who believe that only a strict ‘no deforestation’ position can properly protect valuable forests.

More information can be found on the the Carbon Stock Study website here.

English PDF