Tuesday 4th April 2017, the European Parliament (EP) adopted its own-initiative report on “Palm oil and deforestation of rainforests” at its plenary session. This report was adopted by an overwhelming majority of the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), 640 votes in favour, 18 votes against and 28 abstentions.
Single certification scheme / phase out vegetable oils that drive forestation
According to an EP press release that was released after the vote “... the EU should introduce a single certifications scheme for palm oil entering the EU market and phase out the use of vegetable oils that drive deforestation by 2020”. Furthermore, the press release states “They <EP> call on the <European> 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”.
Yesterday evening the EP rapporteur for this item, Kateřina Konečná, presented the final report and 26 Members of Parliament (MEPs) of various political groups used their one minute speaking time to address once again their positions on the report. For contributions of the individual MEPs click here.
Contribution by EU commissioner Vella
The contribution of the European Commission (EC), that was represented by commissioner Karmenu Vella at the EP session yesterday evening, was very informative. Commissioner Vella has emphasized that the environmental and social challenges of deforestation will continue to be a priority for the EC. He added that “The main drivers of deforestation are related to a broad range of societal factors. In that context we also have to look, for example, at our own consumption and agricultural commodities that are often associated with deforestation, such as soybean and palm oil here in the EU. We are of course aware of the degree of public concern at the environmental impacts of palm oil production, such as deforestation and biodiversity loss, greenhouse gas emissions and indigenous right issues, but we are also aware of the opportunities that it presents, for instance contributing to lifting thousands of people out of poverty in producing countries”.
The Commissioner recalled that the results of a study to consider the feasibility of options to step up EU action to combat deforestation and forest degradation should be available by mid-2017. Vella also believes that it is essential to cooperate and to support efforts by producing countries in this field.
In his second term the EU commissioner emphasised that “... deforestation is a very complex issue and I think we can agree on a number of points. But we need to take a broader look at deforestation because it is not caused only by the palm oil industry”. We all agree that we should stop this irregular and unsustainable production, not just of palm oil, but unsustainable production of any product, said Vella.
Finally, Vella recalled that the EC is also specifically looking at the issue of palm oil certification schemes through a dedicated study which will inform its ongoing work on deforestation, and that the EC will also be organising a conference on illegal logging and deforestation in the coming months in Brussels.
For the press release issued by ESPOAG, the European Sustainable Palm Oil Advocacy Group, click here.