There is also a new carbon payment policy called REDD+, which stands for reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Venter is involved in that effort.
"Before we got started, we didn't have much hope, as oil palm is a really profitable crop," he said. "It produces more food oil than any other crop, like soy or cottonseed. But what we found surprised us, which was that REDD could compete financially at CO2 prices of $2-16 per tonne if it targeted the plantations which stored the most amount of carbon, and at the same time were not very suitable for oil palm, so this was a pretty exciting finding, that carbon conservation could maybe compete financially with oil palm."
When such money exchanges hands, the recipient country then uses the funds to develop forest protection strategies. For example, Indonesia and Norway recently reached an agreement whereby Norway is giving Indonesia $1 billion to trial a national REDD program.
"The most exciting thing to come out of this so far," Venter said, "has been the government moratorium on any new palm oil permits in natural primary forest. This is by all means a major first step, though it doesn't do much for those 46 species that are in places where permits have already been granted."