GreenHouse Gas Working Group 2

History of RSPO and discussions on Greenhouse Gases

Understanding and managing emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) is an issue of global importance and the palm oil industry is no exception. Palm oil has been the focus of particular attention because of the potential emissions of GHGs from land-use change for new plantations, as well as emissions from existing plantations and processing and production facilities.

The RSPO Principles and Criteria include a general requirement to address GHG emissions (5.6), but there has been concern and some criticism, particularly from NGOs and consumers, about the lack of detailed requirements for managing and reducing GHG emissions.

In response to this concern, in November 2008, the RSPO Executive Board established a Greenhouse Gas Working Group (GHG WG1). The GHG WG1 was given the mandate to review all stages of the palm oil supply chain, with an emphasis on understanding GHG emissions from the development of new plantations which is widely considered to be the greatest source of GHG emissions. The expected outputs were a literature review and analysis of the dimensions of GHG emissions from the different stages in palm oil production and, based on this, recommendations for changes to the RSPO P&C together with guidance to RSPO members on best management practices for reducing GHG emissions from oil palm production.

The GHG WG1 agreed on many issues, specifically support for voluntary actions to reduce emissions. However, the GHG WG1 was not able to reach consensus on the dimensions of GHG emissions, particularly those related to the establishment of new plantations and land-use change. The GHG WG1 did, however, recommend that RSPO develop a framework for reducing GHG emissions, which takes into account all relevant sources of GHG emissions.



The second greenhouse gas working group (GHG WG2) was convened at the end of 2009 to review the findings of the GHG-WG1 and to establish a process so that all RSPO members can reduce GHG emissions via a voluntary mechanism consistent with the existing RSPO P&C. The process will be based on a framework approach where emission reductions are to be measured against a reference case for operational corporate units and actions are to be taken on a voluntary basis subject with the intent of achieving continuous improvement over time. The GHG WG2 will also address issues of public policy and business strategies, in order to develop a process that will lead to meaningful and verifiable reductions in GHG emissions from the palm oil supply chain.

The GHG WG2 is composed of 11 members of the RSPO Executive Board (EB) and 20 non-RSPO EB members, with representation from each of the different membership sectors. The group is led by two co-chairs: Jeremy Goon (MPOA) and Tim Killeen (Conservation International), and is facilitated by Ruth Nussbaum (Proforest) and Pavithra Ramani (Proforest).

The GHG WG2 had its first meeting in February 2010 where the work of the group was agreed and organized into six Workstreams, each of which will contribute to the overall objectives of the group. The six different workstreams will focus on the following GHG components:

Workstream #1: Operational emissions

This workstream is producing a harmonized GHG calculating framework which RSPO members can use to measure, monitor and report GHGs within their operations. This framework will consist of boundaries, toolkits, definitions, default values, in addition to identifying voluntary actions on GHG management. The lead author of this workstream is Dr Cecile Bessou from CIRAD who is working with experts in this field from RSPO member organisations including producers, manufacturers and end users.

Workstream #2: Peatland working group (PLWG)

This workstream was set up in response to a motion agreed at RT7. It is focusing on emissions related to operational management of peat with objectives which include (1) to identify environmental and social impacts related to oil palm plantations on peat; (2) to identify best practices for managing oil palm plantations on peat soils; (3) to identify practical methodologies for assessing and monitoring carbon stocks and key GHG emissions from oil palm plantations on peat soils; (4) to evaluate options and constraints for the rehabilitation of degraded peatlands. The co-chairs of this workstream are Rosediana Suharto (IPOC) and Faizal Parish (Global Environmental Centre).

Workstream #3: Scientific panel

The scientific panel, consisting of leading scientists from several countries with expertise covering ecosystem ecology, forest science, soil science and geography, is undertaking a comprehensive review of existing information about land use and land use change and its impact on GHGs including identifying gaps and areas of uncertainty in the current body of information. This workstream will be responsible for several outputs, which include (1) an analysis of GHG fluxes under different land covers and management systems for mineral and peat soils; (2) synthesis of carbon stock of oil palm under different ages, variety, soil and management systems; (3) developing a practical tool for calculating carbon stock in oil palm trees in plantations. The lead author of this workstream is Dr Fahmuddin Agus (IAARD, GAPKI).

Workstream #4: Policy panel

The purpose of this panel of experts will be to focus on the legal, institutional and policy barriers to implementing strategies to reduce GHG emissions – particularly those related to land-use change. The GHG WG2 are in the process of finalizing the scope of policy issues that should be addressed by the panel.

Workstream #5: Emissions from other RSPO members

This workstream is focusing on the activities being undertaken by RSPO membership categories other than producers and processors, including groups such as financial institutions and NGOs to reduce and manage their emissions.

Workstream #6: Engagement with RSPO members

This workstream is collecting information on the voluntary actions which RSPO members are already planning or implementing to better understand and manage GHGs from production and processing. The data collected for this workstream will feed into workstream #1. This workstream hopes to capture information about best management practices that are currently being employed by producers and processors to address GHG emissions.

The GHG WG2 plans to complete its work within two years, providing a report on the first year at RSPO RT8 and presenting the final outputs at RSPO RT9.

RSPO and regulatory requirements on GHG emissions for biofuels

One of the many different uses of palm oil is as biodiesel. In some countries, particularly within the EU, there are specific legal requirements about GHG emissions from feedstocks used to manufacture biofuels. In order to meet these requirements, RSPO is in the process of developing a voluntary add-on which can be used in conjunction with the RSPO P&C by companies wishing to demonstrate compliance with the biofuels regulations


The RSPO GHG WG2 has received financial support from (1) RSPO core funds; (2) UK government and (3) CIRAD.

RSPO GHG WG2 - Expected Outputs
The finalized GHG framework, once agreed by the GHG WG2 participants, will incorporate the information on key GHG dimensions produced by the different workstreams. This framework will assist plantation and mill management to:

(1) Quantify their GHG emissions from oil palm production

(2) Support voluntary actions towards reducing GHG emissions, by:

  • Identifying GHG hotspots
  • Supporting decision-making processes
  • Identifying best management practices
  • Monitoring progress

(3) Allow for consistent communication on GHG emissions for a variety of purposes, that include:

  • Business to business communication
  • Regulatory requirement purposes (eg. EU Renewable Energy Directive)

Based on the framework the GHG WG2 will make recommendations to RSPO about how the framework should be used in conjunction with the RSPO P&C. Any changes to the P&C will only be made after field testing and further discussion of the practical impacts of these proposals.


Click on any of the documents below to get more information on this  work group. The most recent update is uppermost in the list of downloadable documents.

Attachment Size
TORs for RSPO GHG WG2 (2Mar2010).pdf 123.94 KB
Final Recommendations to EB RSPO GHG WG2.pdf 397.09 KB