Ending palm oil driven deforestation

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The fall of 2015 was dominated by the fires in Indonesia. Global Forest Watch indicated that 56% of these fires were reported outside concessions, 33% on pulp wood plantations, 7% on palm oil concessions (of which 93% non-RSPO), and 4% on logging concessions. Of these commodities, Europe imports palm oil from Indonesia, which consequently received the bulk of the attention in Europe.

In particular, this inspired Czech MEP, Kateřina Konečná, to take the initiative for a Parliamentary hearing on “Palm oil and the rainforests: What can Europe do to end deforestation?”. ESPOAG[1] highlighted the important progress industry has already made. The MEPs targeted their questions for action mostly towards the European Institutions.

Steady progress is made every year, but the challenge to reach the target of 100% certified sustainable palm oil in Europe remains significant. In order to tackle the complex problem of deforestation efficiently and effectively, a comprehensive approach taking into account all drivers of deforestation simultaneously is needed to avoid shifting the problem from one driver to another. Focusing on a single activity or on one crop (palm oil) is not effective in halting deforestation.

The European Commission has welcomed the commitment by private operators and has commissioned an independent study [2] to consider the feasibility of options to step up EU action on deforestation and forest degradation. An analysis of the role of the private sector in contributing to halting global deforestation, including through sustainable sourcing of agricultural commodities such as palm oil, will be part of this study. It is expected that results will be available at the end of 2016. In addition, DG ENVI has commissioned a study on the environmental impact and sustainability of palm oil.

IMACE, one of the founding partners of ESPOAG, supports the Dutch Presidency initiative on sustainable sourcing: “EU and Global value chains – implementing sustainable business through aid and trade” and their focus on palm oil. These efforts culminated in the “Private Sector Industry Commitment” and the “The Amsterdam Declaration in “Support of a Fully Sustainable Palm Oil Supply Chain by 2020”. These were signed by representatives of Denmark, France (tentative), Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. The government representatives recognised explicitly to be “encouraged by the private sector.”

For ESPOAG the ultimate goal is to establish sustainability as the new norm for the mainstream supply. Although it will take time to get everyone on board, given the critical situation of climate change some urgent steps are needed to stop deforestation. Sustainability certifications, references in bilateral agreements (whether free-trade or development cooperation agreements), strengthening producers and local governments, taking up sustainability of palm oil in public procurement guidelines, and developing a sustainability baseline can all be part of an approach which can deliver local results.

Given the relative limited weight of the EU market (only 11% of the total palm oil production is used in the EU), in order to be effective in the fight against deforestation, caused by palm oil production or other crops and products imported into the EU, a global approach beyond the EU-scope is also needed. Emerging economies, such as India and China, need also to be made more aware of their role in tackling sustainability and deforestation issues, including in their sourcing practices. All this followed by a global call to action to tackle deforestation with whatever means possible.

Our position paper on palm oil production and deforestation: http://imace.org/en/espoag-paper-on-palm-oil-production-and-deforestation/





[1] ESPOAG is composed of the following European food sectors federations:

  • AIBI: International Association of Plant Bakers
  • CAOBISCO: Chocolate, Biscuits and Confectionery of Europe
  • FEDIMA: Federation of European Union Manufacturers and Suppliers of Ingredients to the Bakery, Confectionery and Patisserie Industries
  • FEDIOL: EU Vegetable Oil and Protein meal Industry
  • IMACE: European Margarine Association

[2] http://ec.europa.eu/environment/forests/deforestation.htm

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