Lessons are emerging from Malaysia that the West should consider in their drive for “green jobs”, particularly from the Malaysian palm oil industry. Last year, with the release of Malaysia’s National Key Economic Areas (NKEA), the Government identified the sector as a key contributor to economic growth and wealth creation, as well as a source for reducing emissions and meeting the country’s international climate obligations.
Most recently, the New Straits Times reported on activities in Malaysia by Malaysian palm oil companies to construct biogas plants to utilize waste from the processing of oil palm fresh fruit bunches. The waste is able to be converted into energy for facilities and local communities, while also producing organic fertilizer for the plantations. And in the process, emissions from oil mills, the largest source of emissions from the production of palm oil, are reduced to almost nothing. Meanwhile, the biogas produced has allowed mills to reduce the use of fossil fuels by 25%.
Malaysia’s NKEA calls for more than 500 such plants to be constructed by 2020 – a goal that the industry is currently poised to exceed with more than 46 plants already in operation, 22 under construction and another 46 in the planning stage. These plants are expected to add RM2.9 billion to Malaysia’s gross national income and employ an additional 2,000 people. But the real value of these plants is the value they add to oil palm waste and the sustainable practices that they encourage, with over 160,000 producers standing to benefit.
The Malaysian palm oil industry is moving forward, positioning itself as a leader in sustainable, “green” industries. And Malaysian’s are prospering as a result.