The EU should tackle the environmental impacts, such as deforestation and habitat degradation, linked to the unsustainable production of palm oil in particular in South-East Asia, said Environment MEPs in a non-binding report adopted on Thursday. Members advocate a phase-out of the use in biofuels of vegetable oils that drive deforestation by 2020, and a single certification scheme for palm oil entering the EU market.

“We want an open debate with all actors so we can make palm oil production sustainable, without cutting down forests and in compliance to dignified human rights conditions” said Kateřina Konečná (GUE/NGL, CZ) who drafted the report.


“This is the first EP report on this issue and it is up to the Commission, how they will stand up to it. We cannot ignore the problem of deforestation, which threatens the Global Agreement on Climate Change COP21 and UN Sustainable Development Goals” she added.


MEPs note that 46% of total palm oil imported by the EU is used for the production of biofuels, which required the use of about one million hectares of tropical soils.


They call on the Commission to take measures to phase out the use of vegetable oils that drive deforestation, including palm oil, as a component of biofuels preferably by 2020.


Single certification scheme


MEPs note that there are various voluntary certification schemes promoting the sustainable cultivation of palm oil. However, their standards are subject to criticism and are confusing for consumers, they say. They advocate a single certification scheme to guarantee that only sustainably produced palm oil enters the EU market.


They call for the EU to introduce sustainability criteria for palm oil and products containing palm oil entering the EU market.  The Commission should increase the traceability of palm oil imported into the EU and should consider applying different customs duty schemes reflecting more accurately the real costs until the single certification scheme is applied.


Next steps


The text was adopted with 56 votes to 1. It will be put to a vote by the full House during the 3-6 April plenary session in Strasbourg.


Note to editors

 

According to “very worrying reports” (1, 2) cited by MEPs, a large part of the global production of palm oil is in breach of fundamental human rights and adequate social standards. Child labour is frequently occurring, and there are many land conflicts between local and indigenous communities and palm oil concession holders.