Weak biofuels legislation in EU excludes palm oil from forest destruction

Siaran Pers - 12 Juni, 2010
Weak sustainability guidelines published by the European Union (EU) yesterday on biofuels, although needing to be strengthened, still demonstrate the growing consumer country concern about palm oil production and deforestation. Under the new guidelines, palm oil producers will be required to show that they have not converted forests or drained peatlands after 2008. (1)

"These new sustainability criteria are yet another indication that global markets are demanding palm oil producers to change their destructive practices. Palm oil from deforestation or peatland clearance going into biofuels is not an option," said Bustar Maitar, Forest Team Leader of Greenpeace South East Asia.

While the revised criteria are an improvement, including the closure of a major loophole - defining palm oil plantations as forests - they remain problematic because a number of issues are not dealt with. The guidelines are still too weak to prevent conversion of some non-pristine forests, and are unclear on how proposed safeguards for peatland will work and be monitored, despite their critical importance. (2) The EU also failed to address the issue of indirect land-use change (ILUC) impacts (3), the biggest risk of biofuel expansion as highlighted by respected international institutions. (4)

Greenpeace EU forest policy director Sebastien Risso said: "Dirty biofuels exacerbate climate change and lead to the destruction of rainforests. Under the current scheme, Europeans wanting to cut their carbon footprint could actually make the problem worse by using biofuels. The worst biofuels are actually more polluting than petrol and there is a very real risk that Europe's cars will run on forest destruction and animal extinction."

The growing demand for palm oil, including for biofuels, is putting immense pressure on Indonesia's forests. Annually, Indonesia loses almost 2 million hectares of forests, and is the third largest emitter on the planet. In particular, the conversion of carbon-rich peat lands causes considerable Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. Various Greenpeace reports show that palm oil producers, like Sinar Mas, keep expanding on these peatlands. Greenpeace estimates that Indonesia's biggest palm oil producer Sinar Mas' average annual emissions from peat degradation under oil palm concessions for one province (Riau) alone is 2.5 million tonnes of CO2 (5).

In the last six months major international corporations like Unilever and Nestle have suspended their Sinar Mas contracts because they do not want their brands to be associated with rain forest destruction and climate change. Spanish biofuels producer Abengoa has also announced suspension of supplies from Sinar Mas.

"Multinationals and the EU are giving Indonesia's industry and government a clear signal: stop clearing forests and draining peatlands. Now it is time to take the necessary steps to change the bad image of Indonesian palm oil.  That means no more palm oil expansion to forests and peatlands," said Bustar Maitar. "President Yudhoyono must go beyond his moratorium on new concessions and declare a moratorium on current deforestation and protect all peatlands." 

Other contacts: Bustar Maitar, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Forest Team Leader, tel: +62 81344666135 Hikmat Soeritanuwijaya, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Media Campaigner, tel: +62 8111805394

Notes: (1) Forests being defined as primary forests or forests with more than 30% canopy cover. (2) In Indonesia, where the palm oil industry is expanding rapidly, 1.8 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions are already released every year by the degradation and burning of peatlands alone - that amounts to a staggering 4% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. Hooijer, A, M Silvius, H Wösten, H and S Page (2006) PEAT-CO2, Assessment of CO2 emissions from drained peatlands in SE Asia, Delft Hydraulics report Q3943 7, December 2006. www.wetlands.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=NYQUDJl5zt8%3D&tabid=56 (3) As agricultural land is set aside to grow biofuels, pressure grows to cut down forests to grow food. The increase in European biodiesel demand could lead to the loss of vast areas of forests. The Commission is expected to make a policy decision over how to manage ILUC impacts by the end of the year. (4) For example, see: - Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development / Richard Doornbosch and Ronald Steenblik. "Biofuels: Is the Cure Worse Than the Disease?" 12 September 2007. http://www.cfr.org/publication/14293/oecd.html - United Nations Environment Programme (2009) Towards sustainable production and use of resources: Assessing Biofuels. http://www.unep.fr/scp/rpanel/Biofuels.htm - European Commission Joint Research Centre (2008) Biofuels in the European Context: Facts and Uncertainties. http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/jrc/downloadsjrc_biofuels_report.pdf (5) Greenpeace (2008) The hidden carbon liability of Indonesian palm oil, Greenpeace International 2008