The Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC) said public consultation on the European Union’s (EU) Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) is based on a false basis that had been used to continue its unfair policy and regulation of sustainable palm oil.
It urged the EU to listen and act on the feedback and suggestions from all of its trading partners, which should form the core of the consultation.
“In a post-COVID-19 world where economic recovery will be the overriding need for all nations, the EU must not choose trade barriers over international cooperation and open trade,” the CPOPC wrote in a column section of Euractiv, a pan-European media network specialising in EU policies.
The council noted that despite continuous criticism from the palm oil industry, the EU appears to be indifferent when it comes to the politics of trade, affirming its protectionist and discriminatory policy.
The RED II Delegated Act on the determination of high indirect land use change (ILUC)-risk feedstock drew on the results of consultation exercises undertaken by the commission with “experts and stakeholders” in 2018 and 2019 dominated by European groups who were perceived as advocates for the fossil fuel industry, it said.
The CPOPC said it had from the very beginning held the view that the ILUC approach being used by the EU to categorise feedstocks into high ILUC-risk and low ILUC-risk is flawed.
“The ILUC scheme is not consistent with the actual business model and operational practices of palm oil companies; the criteria are not implementable and the potential impact on smallholders is not yet assessed.
“Furthermore, ILUC is uncertain because it is dependent on several assumptions that cannot be empirically tested and demonstrated.
“For example, there is no direct link when estimating GHG emissions with ILUC because it is difficult to verify GHG emissions and to identify whether they are part of a biofuel life cycle or a product made from the displaced crop,” the council explained.
"The EU has declared its ambition to reduce the environmental impact based on EU citizens’ choices.
"However, palm oil is the most heavily certified of all commodities imported into the EU.
"With respect to its use as bioenergy for the EU, palm oil has to meet additional criteria in the RED II Delegated Act, while other vegetable oils do not have to.
"In fact, the Delegated Act adds additional criteria discriminating against palm oil and ruins a decade of progress instead of rewarding the sector’s sustainability efforts.
"The application of ILUC to single out palm oil in the Delegated Act of RED ll is therefore seen as a thinly disguised form of neocolonialist protectionism and punitive discrimination.
“Worse, the EU has not been able to produce European feedstock without massive use of fertilisers and pesticides: How can the EU focus on the non-accountable ILUC factor and be blind to such important and measurable sustainability factors in the environmental impact of EU feedstock?”
Elaborating further, the CPOPC said by looking only at past deforestation which does not in fact measure ILUC effects, the EU ignores the fact that palm oil requires six to 10 times less land than all other oilseed crops, which clearly require more agricultural land and lead to high indirect land use change.
“The world cannot afford to wait 10 years for the EU to look back at the impact of its RED II Delegated Act and realise that its wrong decision led to even more global deforestation,” it said.
In a wider partnership context, the EU’s successful elevation to becoming a strategic partner of ASEAN provides the platform for the EU to consult with palm oil producing countries in ASEAN and work towards a win-win solution.
Until then, it is counterintuitive and counterproductive for EU leaders to claim commitments to a geopolitical strategy while banning and restricting an important source of export revenue from key trading partners, it said.
The council said a successful partnership will only be possible once the EU drops its biased ILUC approach in favour of equal standards for all vegetable oils.