Economics for the Earth Blog

We need to put the breaks on palm oil biodiesel

Posted Dec. 2, 2012 / Posted by: Michal Rosenoer

This past Tuesday the European Commission approved a scheme that would certify "sustainable biodiesel" made from palm oil for use in the EU's transportation sector, despite the fact that palm oil production is a leading source of deforestation and human rights abuses in Southeast Asia.

The European Commission ruled that palm oil diesel certified by the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil, a body that sets some social and environmental criteria for palm oil production, can be used to meet the EU's biofuels mandate - the Renewable Energy Directive. The mandate aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector by more than doubling the use of biofuels in the EU by 2020. Ironically however, the RSPO doesn't actually account for the full spectrum of greenhouse gas emissions from palm oil production, as noted in a recent letter from a group of scientists to the RSPO. In fact, the Commission's own leaked research shows that palm oil has the most greenhouse gas emissions of any biofuel when deforestation is considered.

Palm oil is a product found not only in biofuels but in millions of consumer products ranging from dish soap to cookies. The vast majority of the world's palm oil comes from forests in Indonesia and Malaysia, where industry groups have been sited again and again for inflicting poverty, hunger, and slavery among local communities as well as for illegal deforestation. But under the guise of "sustainable development," palm oil continues to be green-washed and sold to the public.

Any fuel or product that threatens the climate, environement, or society cannot justly be called “renewable” or "sustainable;" governments worldwide need to end incentives for palm oil immediately.

Read more about the problems with palm oil in our new issue brief below.

Issue Brief - Palm Oil (Factsheet)

The environmental and social ills of palm oil production

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