Fighting deforestation: Efforts to enforce the EU Delegated Act on Biofuels begin to take traction
By Luke Edwards, Climate Change and Land Use Policy Officer at BirdLife Europe & Central Asia
A landmark decision in February 2019 saw the European Commission produce a delegated act regarding the use of biofuel feedstocks which cause deforestation or have a high risk of indirectly forcing change to the use of land with high carbon stock. Significantly, it was acknowledged that oil palm cultivation causes significant deforestation, and thus biodiesel produced from palm oil cannot be counted towards meeting EU green fuel targets.
As a result the use of palm oil in diesel, which is driven by the EU’s renewable energy targets across the continent, will be gradually reduced as of 2023 and should reach zero in 2030, although exemptions remain.
Now in October 2019 we are starting to see action with France’s high court ruling in favour of ending tax benefits for palm oil diesel.
If it’s palm oil, it’s not sustainable
In Spain, the NGO Ecologistas en Acción (Ecologists in Action) have launched the #SiEsPalmaNoEsBio campaign to urge the government and political groups to implement the delegated act as soon as possible and not wait until 2023.
Spain is the main producer of biofuels in Europe, but by volume only 1% of the feedstock used to produce biodiesel is actually grown in Spain. This pours water on claims that biofuel production is helping local farmers and reviving depopulated regions. In 2018, most of the biofuel feedstock was imported largely from Indonesia (36%), Argentina (23%), Malaysia (18%) and Brazil (8%).
A 2018 Ipsos survey showed that 88% of the Spanish population did not even know that all diesel consumed in Spain carries up to 7% of biofuels, of which 62% is based on imported palm oil, and 34% on soy.
Source: National Commission for Markets and Competition & Ecologistas en Accion
The EU is the second largest importer of crude palm oil in the world, with more than half (53%) of all palm imports used to make biodiesel for cars and trucks in 2018. Europeans are rightly concerned – over 650,000 Europeans signed petitions to stop this madness and more than 65,000 EU citizens took part in the public consultation preceding the European Commission’s decision.
The European Commission’s own research on land-use change emissions, the Globiom report, which calculated land-use change (LUC) emissions resulting from additional demand for biofuels in Europe, revealed that biodiesel from palm oil is three times worse for the climate than regular diesel while soy oil diesel is two times worse. According to the latest Commission study on deforestation and biofuels, 45% of global palm oil expansion has caused deforestation.