JAKARTA – The European Parliament is due to vote on the future of renewable energy, including from palm oil coming from Indonesia, on January 17, 2018, a press release said.

ILLUSTRATION. Oil palm biofuel biodiesel with test tubes. ILLUSTRATION. Oil palm biofuel biodiesel with test tubes.

The vote, to take place at the seat of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, follows the issuance of the organization’s Report on the Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the Promotion of the use of Energy from Renewable Sources issued in April last year, a released from the Indonesian embassy in Brussels issued on the weekend said.

The report among other contains the plan to eliminate the use of biodiesel from vegetable oil by 2030, including by 2021 a halt in the use of palm oil from Indonesia, the worlds’ top palm oil producer and consumer.

Andi Sparringa, an official of the embassy, was quoted as saying in the release that the report from the European Parliament’s Environment Committee ran against the principle of trade freedom and justice and also tended towards a separation of European policies on plants and focus on palm oil.

The Indonesian government objected to the plan of the European Union and the embassy said it was currently trying to build an alliance with embassies of other palm oil producing countries such as Brazil, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia and Malaysia, in order to be able to exert political pressure.

“As a common step, a joint letter of the representations of the palm oil producing countries will be prepared to be sent to the European Parliament as a form of protest,” the release said.

“Indonesia has been advocating about the importance of palm oil as one of the main elements of Indonesia’s national interest, because it concerns the welfare of some 17 million Indonesians, including small farmers who directly or indirectly depend on the palm oil industry,” Sparringa said in the release.

With palm oil plantation in Indonesia covering at least some 11,5 million hectares, 4.5 million of which in the hands of smallholders, the commodity contributed more than Rp 200 trillion to the state coffers in 2017. Indonesian palm oil is currently facing pressure from various sides, especially from environmental activists and the European Parliament.

During the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the European Union in Manila in November 2017, President Joko Widodo even went as far as calling on the European Union to halt discriminative practices against palm oil and also the black campaign that has been directed towards Indonesian palm oil.

Foreign Minister Retno L.P Marsudi has also stressed that palm oil was closely related to Indonesia’s drive to eradicate poverty in line with the commitment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030.

Meanwhile, Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita has been of the view that the policy of singling out palm oil cannot become a good base for the future of relations between Indonesia and the European Union.

Lukito said that it was feared that the dynamics could harm economic cooperation between the two sides, especially during the ongoing discourse for negotiating a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement between Indonesia and the European Union.

Indonesia, the release said, was ready to work together with the European Union to build a better understanding on the sustainability of palm oil, including the strengthening of certification systems under the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) scheme.

However, Indonesia also underlined the importance of free trade that abides by the principles of the World Trade Organization (WTO). It said the European Union should halt its discriminative actions that discredited palm oil from the productivity aspect.

The truth is that the production of palm oil necessitate much less land but the yields are much higher that any other source of vegetable oil, including rapeseed and soybeans.

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