EU phases out palm oil biofuel in cars

Brussels/ Amsterdam, Thursday 14 June 2018 - Last night the European Union chose to end the use of palm oil as a biofuel. It will however take until 2030 before most palm oil will have been phased out from our fuels. The European agreement is crucial for the protection of tropical forests and the communities living in them. Their livelihoods and environments are still being destroyed by ever-expanding oil palm plantations. Currently about half of all palm oil imported to Europe is used in biofuel for cars. As a result of the European agreement, the demand for palm oil will steadily drop from 2023 onwards.

In May, over 200 leaders of Indonesian communities wrote a letter to European heads of governments. The Indonesian leaders called for an end to the destruction of their forests caused by the European demand for biofuel.


Rolf Schipper, head of the Forests campaign of Friends of the Earth Netherlands, is saying: "This is a milestone for millions of people in Indonesia, Malaysia, Africa and Latin America. They depend on the forests for their livelihoods. Until today their lands are often grabbed by big oil palm companies who destroy the forests, replacing it by large monoculture plantations without these communities' consent. This EU agreement will result in a lower demand for palm oil, so forests will be saved from destruction. It is however disappointing that it will take until 2030 before palm oil has been really removed from our fuels."

Easy fix

In the past, biofuels based on palm oil were considered to be an easy fix for Europe to comply with climate policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Soon enough it became clear that by using palmoil-diesel, emissions actually tripled when compared to fossil-based diesel. But putting an end to using palm oil diesel appeared to be really hard for many European member states.

Schipper of Friends of the Earth: "Palm oil is cheap, and to use it in fuel is an easy measure compared to real action to curb traffic emissions. But using palm oil is an insane thing to do for the climate. It increased greenhouse gas emissions, and we shifted our problem to the shoulders of others elsewhere in the world. The international network of Friends of the Earth, with many others, has worked tirelessly for years to put an end to this madness."

Public pressure

Friends of the Earth groups all over the world worked contributed to get palm oil to be banned from fuel. Campaigns in France, Netherlands and Indonesia were crucial to put pressure on European Parliament and government to acknowledge the disastrous effects of palm oil fuels on the planet.

Political process

The agreement reached yesterday between the European Parliament and the European Council of Ministers and the European Commission has watered down the decision of the EP of January. Their decision called for an end to the use of palm oil by 2021 in stead of by 2030.

According to the agreement, from next year the share of palm oil in biofuel is not allowed to increase anymore. From 2023 onwards it has to decrease to almost zero percent in 2030. The next step is for the agreement to be officially approved by both the Parliament and the Council, which is usually a formality but can take a few months.