Reconciling oil palm expansion and climate change mitigation in Kalimantan, Indonesia.

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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.





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Austin, Kemen G, Prasad S Kasibhatla, Dean L Urban, Fred Stolle and Jeffrey Vincent (2015). Reconciling oil palm expansion and climate change mitigation in Kalimantan, Indonesia. PloS one, 10(5). p. e0127963. 10.1371/journal.pone.0127963 Retrieved from

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Prasad S. Kasibhatla

Professor in the Division of Environmental Sciences and Policy

The overarching theme of my research is to develop a fundamental and quantitative understanding of the factors that determine the chemical composition of the atmosphere. I am particularly interested in delineating natural and anthropogenic impacts on the chemical composition of the atmosphere, and in exploring the potential for these impacts to affect natural ecosystems. My research involves the use of numerical models in conjunction with remote and insitu measurements of atmospheric composition.


Dean L. Urban

Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sciences and Policy

My interest in landscape ecology focuses on the agents and implications of pattern in forested landscapes. Increasingly, my research is in what has been termed "theoretical applied ecology," developing new analytic approaches to applications of immediate practical concern such as conservation planning. A hallmark of my Lab is the integration of field studies, spatial analysis, and simulation modeling in extrapolating our fine-scale empirical understanding of environmental issues to the larger space and time scales of management and policy.


Jeffrey R. Vincent

Korstian Distinguished Professor in Forest Economics and Management in the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences

Jeffrey R. Vincent is an economist who works mainly on forest policy issues in low- and middle-income countries. Over his career, he has blended academic research, teaching, and administration; leadership of large, donor-funded policy-advising projects; and capacity-building and mid-career training. Prior to joining Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment in 2007, he held positions at the University of California, San Diego (School of International Relations & Pacific Studies), Harvard University (Institute for International Development), and Michigan State University (Department of Forestry). His current research focuses on the economics of forest restoration, with a primary emphasis on countries in Asia. His past research has addressed various topics, including the tropical timber trade, forest concession policies, biodiversity conservation, the effects of air pollution and climate change on agriculture, green accounting, and valuation of forest ecosystem services. He received the McKinsey Award for the most significant article published in the Harvard Business Review in 2003 and the Cozzarelli Prize for the best article in applied biological, agricultural, and environmental sciences published in PNAS in 2006. He is a Fellow at the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics in Stockholm, Sweden and the South Asian Network of Development and Environmental Economists in Kathmandu, Nepal and Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Cambridge University Press journal, Environment and Development Economics.

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