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MEPs vote in favour of Own Initiative Report on Palm Oil and Deforestation of Rainforests

Today, 4 April 2017, the European Parliament adopted the Environment Committee’s Own Initiative Report on Palm Oil and Tropical Deforestation. 640 MEPs were in favour, 18 against and 28 abstained from voting.

The Report builds on input from the Development, Agriculture and Trade Committees of the European Parliament, who all have adopted their own Opinions on the topic.

Palm oil producing countries had tried to dissuade MEPs from adopting the Report. They are concerned about the unilateral trade measures outlined in it, such as the promotion of European vegetable oils and the call for a single European certification system. The Report proposed moving to a single certification system because of the challenges inherent in relying on certification schemes such as RSPO, ISPO and MSPO for guaranteeing sustainable palm oil.

The Report was welcomed by NGOs who had signed a letter of support. Fern is particularly encouraged that the Report calls for the “provision of technical and financial assistance to producing countries in order to strengthen their land registry regimes and improve the environmental sustainability of palm oil plantations” and that it calls on the EU “to develop an EU Action Plan on Deforestation and Forest Degradation.”

Such policies would play a key role in protecting forests and the people who depend on them.

The production of palm oil has led to agricultural expansion, often illegal, at the expense of forests. Studies estimate that palm oil accounts for a third of the total value of EU imports of products grown on illegally deforested land. Fern partners from Liberia and Ghana spoke about the impact of palm oil expansion in their countries earlier this year in the European Parliament (FW223, FW222). Tackling imports of products grown on illegally deforested land should be one of the EU’s priorities if it is to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. To tackle such imports it must build on lessons learned from efforts to tackle destructive consumption from other sources.