The Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC) is airing its disappointment of Belgium’s recent proposal to the European Commission to ban palm oil as a renewable source of biofuel and warned of possible trade consequences.
“The proposal will undermine the considerable progress being made by the palm oil producing countries in complying with the certification schemes that assure reliable, sustainable supply chains,” The CPOPC said in a press release issued on the weekend, while also reminding Belgium “of the key economic and social development role that the palm oil plays in the development of these countries and in meeting the UN SDGs.”
The Royal Decree on product standards for transport fuels from renewable sources issued in March this year said that the Belgian Ministry of the Environment wished to exclude biofuels that cause widespread deforestation and land use change from the Belgian market. it cited among others, the studies of SIA Partners and Cerulogy, to conclude that palm and soya oil were the most environmentally damaging raw materials in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, Indirect Land Use Conversion (ILUC)and deforestation.
“Should Belgium put its proposal into enforcement, CPOPC believes that this will be a reasonable consideration for member governments of the CPOPC to review the sustainability of Belgian agricultural commodities being imported by CPOPC member countries,” warned the council letters addressed to the Prime Minister of Belgium and other Belgian high-level government officials and copied to the EU relevant officials.
The CPOPC, which comprises of Indonesia and Malaysia, and soon the countries of Colombia, Ghana, Honduras and Papua New Guinea, said that the proposal was also in sharp contrast to EU’s Common Agricultural Policy to promote of the cultivation of oil seeds for biofuels which uses extensive chemicals and pesticides that have been proven detrimental to the environment. The alarming destruction of peat across Europe is also attributable to this policy.
“The Council notes that in as much as the claimed justifications are based on the environment, its promotion of these oil seeds as alternatives to palm oil disputes the EU’s claim of concern for the environment. The Council suspects that the EU and some member states are merely using the environment in guise of protectionism, which is set to undermine the traditional trade between Belgium and palm oil producing countries,” the CPOPC said in its release.
The council also further said that it believed the adoption of the Royal Decree would be a step back not only in the relationships between ASEAN and the EU and to international commitment of fair trade, but also the commitments on sustainability made under the ASEAN-EU Joint Working Group on Vegetable Oil.
“As strategic partners, both parties should utilize the JWG to define sustainable vegetable oils, including soybean, rapeseed and sunflower, by using the UN SDGs as the parameters and by applying a holistic approach to environment,” the council said.