Reversing its previous reluctance, on 2 March 2017, the Agricultural Committee of the European Parliament took the bold step of releasing an Opinion which recognises the devastation that palm oil production has on people and the environment and calls for action.
The announcement comes after a 7 February event co-hosted by MEPs Katerina Konečná and Seb Dance about the destructive impacts of palm oil production and the EU’s responsibility as a buyer (FW222). The event included speeches about the effect of palm oil from Fern’s NGO partners Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) from Liberia, and Forêts et Développement Rural (FODER) from Cameroon, and a screening of Frontera Invisiblewhich shows the impacts that palm oil production has on communities and the environment. Ghanaian NGO Civic Response provided testimony from the floor and participants explored opportunities for cooperation with the EU to address the problems of palm oil production. (See Fern’s picture story about the event here.)
The Agricultural Committee now acknowledges the need to establish a regulatory framework of strong and enforceable measures in order to guarantee that all actors throughout the entire supply chain – including European financial institutions and the investments and loans they provide (FW218) – are involved only in genuinely sustainable palm oil production that ensures protection of forests, forest peoples and biodiversity.
The Committee also calls for the rapid phasing-out of all incentives for biofuels derived from palm oil, as these drive competition for land to the detriment of food production, contribute to deforestation and therefore also contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions.
The proposed phasing-out of incentives is an excellent development. Think-tank and NGO analysis agree that regulation in other sectors can be mirrored to ensure that the EU is not complicit in illegal sourcing, and that there is a need to rapidly phase out support for agri-based biofuels such as palm oil. Fern recommends that EU policymakers approach palm oil and other forest risk commodities holistically and adopt an Action Plan on Deforestation and Forest Degradation to end palm oil’s destruction of communities and forests.
The Parliament’s Environment Committee vote on its full report today before it goes to Plenary.