The European Parliament’s decision to back a ban on the use of palm oil in biofuels has been labelled as “a crop apartheid” by Malaysia’s plantation minister, who has also described the move as a protectionist trade barrier, Reuters reports.
On 17 January, the European Parliament announced its position on the revised Renewable Energy Directive (RED II). A crucial part of the plan will see palm oil in motor fuels banned from 2021.
After Indonesia, Malaysia is the world’s second biggest palm oil producer. The European Union is the country’s second biggest export market for the controversial feedstock, which is used in biofuels as well as cosmetics, food and a range of other products.
“The EU Parliament’s plan would allow all other oilseed crops to continue operating under the RED (Renewable Energy Directive), whereas palm oil will be excluded,” Malaysia’s plantations minister Mah Siew Keong said in a statement.
“This is a clear case of discrimination against palm oil producing countries. The EU is practising a form of crop apartheid,” Mah said.
According to Reuters, Mah told reporters that palm oil producing countries will respond to the EU’s RED II decision.
“Don’t expect us to continue buying European products,” he warned.
Palm oil has become increasingly controversial in Europe. The industry is accused of causing deforestation, and taking for fuel production land that could be used to grow food.
Following the EU Parliament’s plenary vote on RED II, a final draft of the legislation must now be agreed with the executive European Commission and the national governments within the Union.
Not all biofuels are created equal
In its response to the RED II decision, the European Association of Ethanol Producers, ePURE, was positive about the decision to remove palm oil from the EU’s energy mix.
“The Parliament has sent a message that not all biofuels are created equal by focusing on getting rid of those that drive deforestation like palm oil. But its amendments still risk making it harder for EU Member States to realistically boost renewables in transport.” Emmanuel Desplechin, ePURE’s secretary general, said.
In general, the RED II announcement has been met with mixed feelings in Europe, with many calling on the upcoming negotiations to boost decarbonisation ambitions in the transport sector while protecting investment that has already been made into the biofuels industry.
“Now, in the trialogue negotiations we expect a realistic and fact-based discussion to raise further the EU decarbonisation ambitions in the transport sector and secure a role for the EU biodiesel industry,” said Raffaello Garofalo, secretary general of the European Biodiesel Board (EBB).
“A clear mandate for operators including 7% crop based based biofuels – as proposed by the Council – is a necessity in this sense.”