Regular readers of The Orkney News will remember that we ran a story on 10th March 2017, Palm Oil: Why Should I Care?. We reported that palm oil use has more than doubled since 2010 and according to estimates will again double by 2050. At 66 million tons annually, palm oil is the most commonly produced vegetable oil It can now be found in a variety of products such as margarine, chocolate spread, crisps, but also in cosmetics, detergent and biofuel.
Czech MEP Kateřina Konečná had produced a report which was to be discussed at the European Parliament. Konečná wanted the European Commission to strengthen environmental measures to prevent palm oil-related deforestation and phase out the use of palm oil as a component of biodiesel by 2020. In addition products should also be able to be certified for the socially responsible origin of their palm oil.
This week the debate took place and the vote in the European Parliament was 640 votes for to 18 against, with 28 abstentions. The MEPs called on the EU Commission to
- take measures to phase out the use of vegetable oils that drive deforestation, including palm oil, as a component of biofuels, preferably by 2020
- have a single certification scheme to guarantee that only sustainably produced palm oil enters the EU market
- introduce sustainability criteria for palm oil and products containing palm oil entering the EU market.
- improve the traceability of palm oil imported into the EU
- consider applying different customs duty schemes that reflect real costs more accurately until the single certification scheme takes effect.
The debate also covered the breach of human rights which occurs with the production of palm oil including the use of child labour and conflicts with indigenous Peoples whose land is being deforested.
The production of palm oil leads to deforestation as jungle is removed to be replaced by palm plantations. Precious tropical ecosystems, which cover 7% of the Earth’s surface, are under increasing pressure from deforestation, resulting in:
- forest fires
- the drying up of rivers
- soil erosion
- loss of groundwater
- pollution of waterways
- destruction of rare natural habitats.
This positive step forward by the European Parliament on limiting the use of palm oil comes at a time when the Bank of England is considering using palm oil in the production of their new bank notes.