CARTAGENA – The Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC) refers to the recent meeting held between Ministers, Ambassadors and Business leaders of Colombia and Malaysia in Cartagena, Colombia on 26 September 2018.
The purpose of the meeting was to lay grounds for the expansion of CPOPC and to discuss relevant issues regarding palm oil and its significant contribution in achieving the respective countries’ Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
It was noted that there is almost an insatiable demand for palm oil within the global vegetable oil sector; and faced with this demand palm oil producing countries will need to manage carefully the sustainability of palm oil well into the future. An important element of this will be the empowerment of small holders to increase their productivity on existing cultivated land.
With regard to recent policy developments in the European Union (EU) on biofuel, CPOPC issues the following statement:
- Under the proposed Renewable Energy Directive II (RED II), the Commission of the European Union is mandated to establish criteria to help distinguish between high and low risk Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) across the vegetable oil sector in general used for biofuels;
- There are several EU models for ILUC that have been proposed none of which, nor could provide definitive evidence that would allow for a clear distinction between high and low risk ILUC. Nevertheless, the Commission is mandated to establish criteria by February 2019 to allow for such a distinction to be made;
- The ILUC concept is of US and EU origin, but it is not globally accepted approach or standard for assessing the impact of ILUC on climate change. It helps underpins EU policy, but it is not international norm upon which palm oil producing countries could or should build their environmental policies;
- CPOPC draws attention to the fact that there is over 1.7 billion hectares of land devoted to the production of crops globally, of which only 4% is devoted to biofuel. In our view, the very marginal use of land for biofuel calls into question the very basic premises of indirect land use change resulting from the cultivation of vegetable oils for biofuel. The major pressure on the global land is the production of crops for feedstuffs for animal and humans, and not biofuel;
- While CPOPC considers that the scientific community of palm oil producing countries should engage with the Commission, the Governments in the developing world should be fearful of being drawn into acknowledging, accepting or offering legitimacy to the ILUC scheme within the RED II;
- Palm oil producing countries should also be mindful in the weeks ahead of the objectiveness of the criteria being established;
- CPOPC is of the view that the use of ILUC to target palm oil would represent a basic violation of the non-discriminatory principles upon which the WTO multilateral system is based; and that any related EU regulation or decision would likely constitute a Technical Barrier to Trade. In this respect, there is concern that palm oil will be targeted as several EU models are associated with the conversion of forests and peat lands with ILUC;
- CPOPC does not necessarily subscribe to this concern, but we believe that criteria established by the EU should also address carbon retention in lands that have been converted from forests and peat in Europe; as well as to take account of the relative productivity of vegetable oils and the importance that this plays in protecting the global land bank as global demand shown no signs of slowing down;
- There are wider concerns that have been expressed by palm oil producing countries that criteria should also take into account the historical impact of mass deforestation in Europe. It may be argued that any scheme that does not take this into account lacks objectiveness;
- CPOPC supports the global agreement embarked by all Members of the United Nations that is to achieve Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 (SDGs). In this context, there is no doubt that palm oil has contributed to the reduction of poverty, to social and economic progress in palm oil producing countries, though we do fully recognize the importance of addressing the environment to ensure that palm oil is produced sustainably;
- CPOPC considers that the SDGs does not mean a trade-off between social and economic progress and the environment, but rather the need to balance out these aims, and CPOPC and other Palm Oil Producing countries are willing and open to engage with trading partners and stakeholders on how to achieve SDGs in the vegetable oil sector;
- In contrast to the direction of EU RED II, CPOPC believes that the promotion of first-generation biofuel is an essential element for achieving the SDGs in palm oil producing countries. The use of vegetable oils in biofuel is essential to combating climate change and it is also important for all Governments in Palm Oil Producing Countries to reassure and give certainty to our industries that biofuel investment will not be undermined as is the case in the European Union.