European Parliament votes to ban palm oil in biofuels

A great victory for the rainforest and its inhabitants: the European Parliament today voted to ban palm oil in biofuels as of 1 January 2021. ‘Today the European Parliament is the champion saviour of the rainforest’, Milieudefensie’s campaign leader, Rolf Schipper, enthused.

The European Parliament decided by an overwhelming majority that our automobiles should no longer be fuelled by palm oil. That is excellent news for the rainforest because rainforests are at this very moment undergoing massive deforestation to make way for more palm oil plantations. If the European Union (EU) indeed introduces a palm oil ban, Europe will instantly consume 46% less palm oil in one fell swoop.

The European Parliament’s decision follows years of debate. Milieudefensie has done everything in its power this past year to support a palm oil ban. We collected more than 32,000 signatures in the Netherlands, we lobbied hard in countless discussions and 174 scientists wrote an open letter. Meanwhile, in the European context, Milieudefensie, together with other organizations, was able to convince enough Parliamentarians to vote for a ban on the use of palm oil. We accomplished much of this by allowing our eyewitnesses from Indonesia and Liberia to tell their stories to the European Parliament. Another 20,000 people sent personal emails to members of the European Parliament, resulting in the entire Parliament being well aware of the fact that deforestation of the rainforests must be stopped!

Rolf Schipper: ‘The mighty palm oil companies have been left standing on the sidelines. A pure victory for the climate and the rainforest’s inhabitants. To all the petition signers and campaigners from the Netherlands, Europe, Indonesia and Africa – well done’!

The European Parliament today also voted on the use of other food crops for fuel, such as soybeans and rapeseed. A total ban on food fuels does not currently seem to be in the cards. However, their use is going to be restricted. That will just further benefit the forests, the local residents, and food prices. Milieudefensie, however, remains committed to working for a total ban, as the increased use of food fuels leads to higher food prices. This affects mainly the Earth’s poorest people. There is also plenty of illegal deforestation, which means people will continue to be displaced from their native lands.

Research appearing just this week shows that American biofuel policy has led to massive increases in logging. Clearly, food fuels are not the solution in combatting climate change. Solutions for cleaner transportation should be about improving public transportation, bicycle-friendly cities and electric transport.

The European Parliament is now going to negotiate with the European Commission and the European Council in order to produce a more binding European ban on palm oil for fuel. Minister Wiebes (Economic Affairs and Climate) will plead, on behalf of the Netherlands, for a palm oil ban before the European Council. The Dutch government decided to pursue this ban after receiving a petition from Milieudefensie signed by over 32,000 Dutch citizens.