The European Union’s classification of soybean as low risk to the environment because it falls under Indirect Land Use Conversion (ILUC) is undermining its credibility because it is a decision made without scientific basis, the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC) former chairman Mahendra Siregar said on Monday (4/2).

Siregar, who vacated his post at CPOC at the end of last year because he has been designated as the incoming Indonesian ambassador to the United States, said the EU had yet to come out with a delegated act that would allow implementation of its Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) at member country level. At the same time has also yet to clarify how to measure the environmental risk of vegetable oil in relation to ILUC.

“While the delegated act is being delayed, the EU came out with a policy classifying soybean oil as low risk. This invites further question as this policy is not accompanied with a scientific (explanation) but was just decided,” Siregar said. “This only undermines the credibility of ILUC and RED II.”

The European Commission in its revised RED II includes a provision to phase out the contribution of biofuels produced from feedstocks that are a high-ILUC risk by 2030. The Commission had been slated to provide specific criteria for classifying high- and low-risk ILUC biofuels under the Directive, but so far it has yet to do so.

When debating the RED II, the European Parliament has argued that there is strong evidence that palm oil should be classified as a high-ILUC feedstock. The RED II aims to stop the use of crops that cause deforestation in transportation fuel by 2030. Environmentalists blame a rapid expansion of Indonesian palm plantations for a massive clearance of forests that were home to endangered tigers, orangutans and elephants.

The CPOPC has argued that the ILUC concept was of US and EU origin, but it was not a globally accepted approach or standard for assessing the impact of ILUC on climate change. It added that ILUC was also not an international norm upon which palm oil producing countries could or should build their environmental policies.

Siregar said that the EU decision on soybean oil was “political” and added that palm oil producing countries will take this into consideration when taking the matter regarding EU policy on palm oil to the World Trade Organization.

Indonesia has said it intended to challenge an EU directive on renewable energy at the WTO, arguing the plan to curb the use of crops that cause deforestation will unfairly target palm oil.

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