With its newly adopted Delegated Regulation defining biofuel feedstocks associated with the conversion of high-carbon-stock land, the European Commission (EC) has taken a few steps in the right direction on the issue of palm oil. But even though it has listened to stakeholders, the Commission still falls short of a text that would "truly remove deforestation-causing palm" from the EU transport energy mix says the European Renewable Ethanol Association (ePURE).
With the new text, the European Commission clearly defines palm oil as a feedstock for which a significant conversion of land with high carbon stock is observed – so-called high ILUC-risk biofuel – with the aim of phasing out its contribution to EU renewables targets.
However, according to Emmanuel Desplechin, Secretary-General of the European Renewable Ethanol Association (ePURE), to be truly effective the Delegated Regulation needs to include not just palm oil but palm and its derived products. This to prevent “loopholes” that would allow significant amounts of palm oil to count towards the EU renewables targets, through the so-called ‘low ILUC-risk biofuels’ category, by giving smallholders a free pass on proving that measures have been put in place to improve agriculture practices or that they have cultivated unused land.
Respecting the mandate of the RED II agreement – which Desplechin says took a clear stand against palm oil – means closing the loophole for smallholders entirely.
Unfortunately the new text still leaves the door open for palm oil in Europe. When the Commission’s draft Delegated Regulation was first published last month, a broad coalition quickly formed against it – everyone from European farmers to NGOs and the European feedstock-based biofuels industry. The Commission heard our call and tweaked the text. But the Delegated Regulation ought to be about ensuring that European biofuels policy is no driver to deforestation and/or peatland drainage; whether the feedstock is produced by smallholders or large holders is irrelevant. The Commission needs to do better if it really wants to get palm oil out of the EU energy picture and instead focus on European biofuels that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions without producing harmful side effects such as deforestation, said Emmanuel Desplechin.
Going forward, ePURE calls on the Commission to:
- Remove the exemption for smallholders to prove additionality. Size simply does not matter, and this provision was not contained in the RED II mandate
- Clarify that high ILUC-risk includes not just palm oil but palm and its side streams.
- Conduct an impact assessment to get a better sense of what volumes are concerned by both the high and low ILUC-risk biofuels.