As it adopted the national budget for 2019, the Norwegian Parliament voted (Resolution 86) to exclude biofuels based on high deforestation risk feedstocks, such as palm oil, as of 1 January 2020 – the first country in the world to implement such measures. The EU has taken a similar decision to phase out biofuels with high deforestation impact, but not until 2030.
Demand for palm oil has grown aggressively in Europe, stimulated by policies to increase the consumption of renewable energy in transportation. Yet this increased demand has, in turn, driven the expansion of oil palm plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia, at the expense of carbon and biodiversity-rich rainforests and peatlands.
Scientists consistently find that biofuels based on palm oil have an even worse climate impact than fossil fuels, due to the indirect deforestation effect; this, despite the fact that the EU and Norway have adopted sustainability criteria for biofuels.
The decision was sparked by news that Norway’s consumption of palm oil-based fuels reached an all-time high last year. In 2017, 317 million litres of biodiesel – around 10 per cent of total Norwegian diesel consumption – were based on palm oil. Norwegian politicians, including Prime Minister Erna Solberg, raised concern over the use of palm oil-based biofuels, given the link between increased demand for palm oil and deforestation.
“The Norwegian parliament’s decision sets an important example to other countries and underlines the need for a serious reform of the world’s palm oil industry,” said Nils Hermann Ranum of Rainforest Foundation Norway.