When will the EU tighten its regulations on the sale of palm oil?

In order to meet the EU’s climate goals, the European Parliament has recently voted to ban the sale of biofuel made from vegetable oil by 2020. But although this has been welcomed by environmental groups, calls have now been made to extend the ban to palm oil. Palm oil is used in hundreds of products on sale across the EU. It can also be blended with diesel and used to power engines. However, in order to meet forest protection goals, groups have urged that European nations need to take action to ban the use of palm oil in biofuel and improve the monitoring of supply chains.

Samperante, a group of forest peoples representatives from nations across Asia, Africa and Latin America are visiting Europe to try and establish a new plan to create more sustainable supply chains. The proposed changes include introducing a sustainable trade ombudsman, who would investigate any claims of environmental or human rights violations. This has been supported by environmental groups and charity organisations across the world including Greenpeace, Global Witness, the Forest People’s Programme, WWF and the Environmental Investigation Agency.

Many communities who are negatively affected by the plantations have also shown their strong support for the EU to go ahead with a ban. It’s hoped that by imposing more regulations on supply chains, along with the proposed biofuel ban, would help to prevent unnecessary damage to their human rights, land and to the environment. Tom Griffiths, the author of a report on rights and deforestation, said “There are so many pledges and commitments by companies and government that sound good on paper, but the reality on the ground is starkly different. At the meetings this we, they are all saying close the gap.”

Although the EU is clearly facing huge pressure to implement tougher sanctions on the sale of palm oil, it’s been met with some resistance from the governments of some of the world’s major palm oil producing nations. An estimated 90% of the exports of palm oil come from south east Asian countries like Indonesia and Malaysia. Some politicians from these countries have accused the EU of undermining poverty reduction efforts and trade protectionism and Malaysia’s plantations minister recent described the EU proposals as “crop apartheid.”

Franky Samperante, founder of the indigenous peoples’ organisation Pusaka, commented that the Indonesian government had given permission for over fifty companies to open new plantations on land which is used by local communities. He added that the sale of palm oil produced in this area would be unethical and shouldn’t be banned by the EU. “There should be sanctions. If not, there is no point,” he said.


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