European Parliament discusses path towards sustainable palm oil.

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In the spotlight avril 2017Palm oil has been linked to deforestation of tropical forests and as such received a lot of negative attention in the recent years. April 4, the European Parliament approved a resolution on “Palm oil and deforestation of rainforests,” developed under the lead of Kateřina Konečná (GUE/NGL).

Parliament supports the industry commitment to sustainable palm oil
The industry is committed to 100% uptake of sustainable palm oil in Europe by 2020. Sustainability must become the new norm. Urgent action is needed to get as many players on board as soon as possible, via a stepwise approach.
ESPOAG1 notes that this is an important topic which must be handled with great care. Real results to increase the uptake of sustainable palm oil will only be possible through multilateral dialogue and cooperation involving all stakeholders.
Alberto Cirio (EPP) remarks that the European Parliament already agreed under the New York Declaration on Forests to support and help meet the private sector goal of eliminating deforestation by no later than 2020, recognizing that some companies have more ambitious targets.

A comprehensive approach is needed
A comprehensive approach, considering all drivers of deforestation simultaneously in both producing and consuming countries, is needed as recognized by Julie Girling (ECR). ESPOAG identified five policy options:

  • Referring to sustainable production practices in bilateral agreements, whether free-trade or development cooperation agreements, could be an important signal and step in the right direction.
  • Close collaboration with producing countries is essential since deforestation is closely correlated with economic and social development of local communities.
  • The European Commission could consider defining a sustainability baseline for crops contributing to deforestation against which local production systems could be benchmarked. The current study on the environmental aspects of palm oil production by DG ENVI can be a good starting point for discussion here to build upon and improve what exists, such as the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).
  • In pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals and poverty reduction objectives, the fight against deforestation must go hand in hand with local capacity building, technological aid and transfer of know-how and financial support to smallholders, which produce 40% of palm oil, to be able to increase yields and adhere to the sustainable development objectives;
  • Europe takes up about 12% of palm oil production. More information is needed about the role of other large consuming countries in deforestation issues.

Raising awareness of European consumers
European consumers also play a key role. But there is a lack of strong consumer demand for sustainable palm oil. Many markets are unaware of its existence and, in other markets, there is a general avoidance of products with palm oil.

Public procurement guidelines can give an important market signal in addition to the significant short/medium term impact by increasing demand for sustainable palm oil. This is a powerful point of leverage that the EU should use to encourage a shift towards more sustainable production practices.
Member States could also endorse widely the Amsterdam Declaration as Birgit Collin-Langen (EPP) and Catherine Bearder (ALDE) underline in the Amendments they introduced.

Several of ESPOAG1 members already are communicating their sustainability commitment and have accepted to increase communication efforts. In some EU Member States this comes at a great cost.

The European Food Industry acts on its commitment
The current report being debated in the European Parliament is an important political signal on the way to a sustainable economy. Industry already committed to 100% sustainable palm oil by 2020 and takes the necessary actions to achieve that target.
ESPOAG welcomes that the Parliament considers this complex topic and have a holistic approach in support of the industry commitment. Only if all stakeholders are engaged will the ambition to end deforestation have a chance.

You can find the ESPOAG statement here

and the press release here

1 ESPOAG the European Sustainable Palm Oil Advocacy Group, represents major food sectors at European level that source a large range of raw materials. ESPOAG supports the EU objective to stop deforestation by 2030, at the latest, and the promotion of this objective at international level. The sectors ESPOAG represents recognize the important role they play in acting as a responsible steward of forests and natural habitat. Throughout our memberships, companies are taking a proactive role in tackling deforestation through improved traceability and supplier engagement. 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

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