EU parliament mulls palm oil ban
Brussels, 21 June (Argus) — Members of the European Parliament will consider provisions in revised renewables legislation that could restrict imports of biofuels that drive deforestation, including palm oil.
The parliament is currently considering amendments and is expected to vote on specific provisions in draft renewables legislation in October. The final legal text will need to be agreed with EU member states.
"It is important that we have a provision excluding biofuels [made] from imported raw materials that contribute to deforestation, such as palm oil, from EU member state renewable targets," French socialist Gilles Pargneaux told Argus.
Pargneaux is the vice-chair of the parliament's environment committee. He noted that specific provisions excluding palm oil in the EU's revised renewables legislation come after parliament voted on 4 April for a resolution for the phase out of biofuels associated with deforestation.
"We passed that resolution with a very large majority," he said.
Centre-right Croatian EPP member Marijana Petir noted that her proposed provision avoids any specific mention of palm oil but targets biofuels that have negative effects in terms of indirect land use conversion. The provision, if adopted, would reduce the share of biofuels with calculated emissions greater than 160g of CO2 equivalent. "That means that palm oil is excluded," Petir told Argus.
Specific measures to reduce EU imports of palm oil over sustainability concerns could raise the prospect of unfair discrimination, according to a World Trade Organisation (WTO) counsellor.
"We are WTO-compatible," said French conservative EPP member Angelique Delahaye, adding that any provision restricting palm oil imports should not affect other vegetable oils.
The commission's original proposal does not take account of the links between the biodiesel and agricultural sectors, according to Delahaye. "The 3.8pc cap by 2030, coupled with the lack of incorporation obligations for biofuels, would de facto result in their phase-out shortly after 2020," she said.
"It is time to put into force parliament's resolution. The question is whether we will have the political courage to do it," said European renewable ethanol association (ePURE) secretary general Emmanuel Desplechin.
Both ePURE and the European Biodiesel Board have called for regulatory stability and are guarded against any form of phasing-out food-based biofuels from 2021.