JAKARTA, June 20 (JDN.id) – Environmentalists were not happy with the outcome of a trilogue meeting of the European Union’s Renewable Energy Directive (REDD II) that informally agreed to extend the deadline on palm oil ban in transport fuels. Meanwhile, producers remained on alert as neither the delay is good for them.
Negotiators from the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the Council, on June 14, agreed to extend the deadline to ban palm oil use for biodiesel industry to 2030 from initially 2021. This means Indonesian biofuels can still enter the market for the next 12 years, which is much later than the previously targeted deadline.
Despite this informal agreement means palm oil producers can buy more time before they are forced to leave the EU markets, it apparently does not make major producing countries Indonesia and Malaysia happy. A top official from intergovernmental organization Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC) threatened they will bring the matter into WTO dispute tribunal.
“The European Union (EU) is leading in the fight against climate change. The agreement reached on the revision of the EU Renewable Energy Directive includes a gradual reduction of the amount of certain categories of biofuels counted towards our ambitious renewable energy target. Biofuels will be assessed equally regardless of the source. The text will not single out, nor ban palm oil. The EU is and remains the most open market for Indonesian palm oil,”
Vincent Guérend, EU Ambassador to Indonesia
Rainforest Foundation Norway, a non-governmental organization focusing its efforts on protecting the world’s rainforests and their inhabitants slammed the trilogue meeting outcome.
“EU timeline for phasing out palm oil in biofuels is disastrous,” RFN writes in its article published on June 14.
“We believe the EU decision is a step in the right direction, but react strongly to what we believe is an unacceptably slow transition away from palm oil and the associated massive forest loss in Indonesia and Malaysia,” Nils Hermann Ranum, Head of Policy and Campaign Department at RFN was quoted in the article.
“We also have grave concerns for the human rights violations that often accompany palm oil production.”
Ranum argued the EU has understood that palm oil is unsuitable as fuel in cars, which he believes as a step forward.
“However, the EU has given itself 12 years to phase out this destructive fuel, which is totally unacceptable. A lot of rainforest will be destroyed by the palm oil industry in the intervening 12 years. It beggars belief that the EU will now continue using palm oil based fuels and contribute to this destruction until 2030,” he said.
RFN highlighted its recent report titled “Driving Deforestation” produced jointly with London based consultancy company Cerulogy that shows that if the EU proceed with the current proposed targets without strong measures against using palm oil feedstock, then the future demand of biofuels in 2030 could be “more than six times” higher than today. This would be equivalent to a total of up to 67 million tonnes of CPO products.
“This would exceed today’s total global production of palm oil,” RFN said.
“Palm oil is unsuitable for burning in cars. Biofuel policies around the world are driving deforestation and increased greenhouse gas emissions, and are a social and environmental disaster. Policy-makers in the EU and the rest of the world must put in place measures to phase out palm oil-based biofuels immediately,” Ranum said in the statement.
RFN said consequences biofuel policies may have for Southeast Asia’s remaining rainforests “can hardly be overstated”. It highlights that additional demand from biofuel industry means that producers need to expand plantation area as the yield in palm oil plantations has slowly stagnated over recent years.
“In the report’s high scenario this implies driving an additional 4.5 million hectares of deforestation. That’s an area the size of the Netherlands,” RFN said.
The NGO also cited other environmental tolls, which are threats to biodiversity and indigenous as well as other forest- dependent communities. “The planet’s climate would be impacted with 7 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions over the next two decades, resulting from deforestation and peat drainage. This is more than the total annual greenhouse gas emissions of the USA,” it said.
Subject to WTO review?
The news from Europe received immediate reaction from Indonesia. Mahendra Siregar, executive director of the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC), which was established by the world’s two largest palm oil producers Indonesia and Malaysia, said the trilogue meeting result could be considered as a non-tariff barrier that could potentially violate the World Trade Organization rules.
“The criteria used by the European Union in limiting the use of biofuel [from palm oil products] isn’t an internationally accepted principles, so there is a risk of violating WTO [rules],” Siregar said on Sunday, as quoted by Bisnis Indonesia newspaper on its online outlet, adding that this also means a discrimination towards the commodity.
Danang Giridrawardana, the Executive Director at the Indonesian Palm Oil Association (Gapki) echoed Siregar’s comments.
“The EU’s decision only means it [the palm oil ban] is only delayed for 12 years. They continue making discrimination towards CPO,” as quoted by Bisnis.
He added that palm oil plantation produce a more efficient vegetable oil compared to other oils like rapeseed and soybean. He said oil palm plantation produces 4 tons of oil per hectare, while if rapeseed was to produce the same amount of volume, it needs a much bigger land.
In a bid to anticipate the 2030 ban, Danang said CPO producers in Indonesia will have to work it out to reduce dependency to export its products to Europe by expanding its markets to other countries.