European Commission classifies most palm oil fuels as unsustainable

(Climate Change News, 11 Feb 2019) Deforestation-linked stocks cannot be counted towards renewable targets, commission rules, but green group angered by small farm loophole.

The European Commission has classified palm oil biofuels as unsustainable, amid efforts to take aim at deforestation-linked products.

The draft legislation, which has two months to be approved by the European parliament and member states and cannot be amended, means most palm oil biofuels would not be counted toward EU renewable energy targets.

According to Brussels-based NGO Transport & Environment (T&E), palm-oil based biodiesel releases three times more greenhouse gases than fossil fuel diesel, once land use is taken into account. Around the world, the industry has struggled to control its supply chain and rid it of oil grown from denuded rainforests.

A commission spokesperson said the new criteria, which was published on Thursday, were “reasonably strict and significantly reduce the scope of eligible feedstock compared to the current situation”.

Green groups welcomed the draft as a first step toward acknowledging palm oil-linked deforestation, but cautioned against what they described as significant loopholes in the text. Of particular concern are exemptions for palm oil cultivated in plantations measuring less than five hectares, or produced on “unused” land, said T&E.

Palm oil giants such as Malaysia’s FELDA/FGV often base their business model on patchworks of small holdings, the NGO said. It also took issue with the classification of ‘unusued land’, which could benefit local communities by providing habitat or storing carbon.

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Climate Change News, 11 Feb 2019: European Commission classifies most palm oil fuels as unsustainable