A single certification scheme for palm oil entering the EU market

Wednesday 12 April 2017

On Tuesday 4th of April, the European Parliament adopted in Strasbourg a resolution on palm oil and the deforestation of rainforests. This resolution was adopted following a report by the Czech MEP and GUE member Kateřina Konečná calling on the European Commission to take measures to ensure among others the phasing out of palm oil in biofuels by 2020 and a single certification scheme for palm oil entering the EU market.

The impact of unsustainable palm oil production on issues such as deforestation, loss of nature habitats and greenhouse gas emissions is critical, particularly in South-East Asia. The role of the fragile ecosystem of the jungle is essential for the preservation of global biodiversity and deforestation puts it at risk, while also endangering species such as the Sumatran rhinoceros, the Sumatran tiger and the Bornean orangutan to whom it is the natural habitat, and threatening dignified human rights conditions. According to a study launched by the European Commission in 2016 on the impact of EU consumption on deforestation[1], consumption of oil crops - such as soy and palm oil - and their derived processed goods, as well as meat consumption, play a major role in the impact of EU consumption on global deforestation. “EU is also the second biggest palm oil consumer in the world”, says Kateřina Konečná, “although it is trying to become the most important player regarding how to limit its consumption”. Moreover, she “believe[s] that the European Parliament should be very ambitious, there should not be any palm oil in biofuels."[2] 46% of the palm oil imported by the EU is used to produce biofuels, requiring the use of about one million hectares of tropical soils.

Although various voluntary certification schemes exist to promote the sustainable cultivation of palm oil, MEPs found that their standards are open to criticism and are confusing for consumers. A single certification scheme would simplify the matter and guarantee that only sustainable palm oil enters the EU market.

The report calls on the EU to strengthen environmental measures to prevent palm oil related deforestation, and phase out the use of palm oil as a component of biodiesel, preferably by 2020[3]. Products should also be able to be certified for the socially responsible origin of their palm oil. This is the first resolution adopted by the Parliament on this issue, approved by 640 votes to 18, with 28 abstentions, and it is now up to the EU Commission to take measures. Until the single certification scheme takes effect, the traceability of palm oil imported into the EU should be improved, and the Commission should consider applying different customs duty schemes that reflect real costs more accurately.

[1] http://ec.europa.eu/environment/forests/impact_deforestation.htm

[2] http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/news-room/20170306STO65231/palm-oil-the-high-cost-of-cultivating-the-cheap-vegetable-oil

[3] http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/news-room/20170329IPR69057/meps-call-for-clampdown-on-imports-of-unsustainable-palm-oil-and-use-in-biofuel

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