Exemptions Raise Flags as European Commission Moves to Restrict Palm Oil in Biofuels
The European Commission is moving to restrict transportation fuels based on palm oil whose cultivation is linked to deforestation, but is taking criticism for the loopholes in its phaseout plan.
Last year, European Union legislators agreed to cap the use of biofuel feedstocks that damage the environment at 2019 levels, then reduce them to zero between 2023 and 2030. “The law has caused an uproar in palm oil producing countries,” Reuters reports, with Indonesia threatening a challenge before the World Trade Organization and Malaysia looking to retaliate against France for its plan to eliminate palm oil from biofuels next year.
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But the EC’s proposed criteria for implementing the phaseout would exempt producers who could show they had intensified yields on their cultivated lands. “It could then be argued that their crops cover demand for biofuel and for food and feeds, without needing expansion onto non-agricultural land, such as forests,” Reuters explains.
European advocacy group Transport & Environment said that the provisions could allow the continent to continue importing as much palm oil for diesel as it currently does. “An exemption for small-holdings made no sense, it said, as there was no link between size of plantation and deforestation risk, and because farmers of small lots typically sold to mills controlled by large corporations,” the news agency states. T&E “also said it deplored the Commission’s exemption for soy.”
Bas Eickhout, a Dutch Member of the European Parliament and European Green Party member, called the exemptions excessive.
“The battle is not over,” he said, adding that legislators “still have time to close these loopholes and clamp down on destructive palm oil entering the EU.”