EU palm oil threat enrages Indonesia

EU palm oil threat enrages Indonesia

Indonesia says it is preparing economic retaliation if the European Parliament’s draft of a ban on the use of palm oil in biofuels win the approval of the European Union’s commission and council.

MEPs in January voted to phase out the use of biofuels made from palm oil by 2021 to meet the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive, which aims to reach a renewable energy target of at least 27 per cent by 2030, including in transport fuels.

Vincent Guerend, the bloc’s ambassador to Indonesia and Brunei, said the EU was considering replacing food-based biofuels with renewable electricity, to preserve peatland and forests.

“The EU was the one to promote biofuel as renewable over 10 years ago. But because the EU is such a big market, it has some very strong pull effects: negative effects to be exact,” Guerend added.

He said food prices were rising because of land being used for fuel rather than consumption.

Rainforest and peatland are cut and burned to create plantations and, as peat is very high in carbon, stored carbon is released into the atmosphere during combustion.

There is an 85-per-cent fall in biodiversity when plantations are cut from rainforest, the world’s most biodiverse ecosystems. Meanwhile, orangutans, tigers, rhinos and elephants are losing their habitats and becoming endangered or extinct.

A decision on whether a bloc-wide ban will be legally imposed on all EU nations is due to be made next year. Indonesia and Malaysia produce nearly 90 per cent of the world’s palm oil. 

Palm oil makes up about 14 per cent of Indonesia’s total exports.

According to the WWF, every hour an area of rainforest the size of 300 football fields is cleared for palm oil. 

After India, the EU is the largest export market for Indonesian palm oil, importing around 5 million tonnes each year, the archipelago’s Ministry of Trade said. 

Indonesia is now the world’s third-highest greenhouse-gas emitter because cleared vegetation is often burned. 

But Indonesia and Malaysia say European rape seed is far less efficient to produce than palm oil. 

The Malaysia Palm Oil Council estimated that palm oil production occupied 9.2 million hectares and produced 31.8 per cent of the world’s cooking oils, while soybean and rapeseed required 10 times the land to produce similar yields.

Indonesia has reportedly considered banning fisheries from the EU if the law is approved as it steps up nationalistic rhetoric ahead of next year’s presidential election.


The orangutan is threatened by palm oil. Picture credit: Wikimedia  

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