Can Europe defeat a palm oil ‘monster’ of its own making?


The EU’s biofuel policy was meant to help the climate. Instead it’s been linked to loss of rainforest because of its reliance on palm oil. New rules aim to phase out the oil but the problem runs deeper, say experts.

Deforestation at an Indonesian palm oil concession

Alongside record heat waves, trade wars have also been grabbing global headlines recently, whether it’s the United States versus Turkey, the US versus China — or the European Union versus Indonesia and Malaysia.

Rumblings of the latter followed the European Parliament’s January 2018 vote to ban the use of palm oil as a biofuel by 2020. Malaysia and Indonesia — both major producers — threatened retaliation, but backed down after the EU opted for a slower phase-out of palm oil as biofuel.

Now, under the EU’s updated Renewable Energy Directive (finalized in June), palm oil imports should peak around 2019, then begin to drop in 2023 before being phased out entirely by 2030.

The EU’s move came amidst growing recognition that the consumption of palm oil in Europecontributes to deforestation, destruction of wildlife habitat and — when industrial palm oil growers clear rainforests — greenhouse gas emissions.

Read morePalm oil: Too much of a good thing?

Categories: Asia, Malaysia

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