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Jakarta Post

EU bases planned palm oil restriction on 2015 data

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, March 22, 2019   /   12:28 pm
EU bases planned palm oil restriction on 2015 data This picture taken on Feb. 14, 2017 shows palm oil seeds in Kendawangan, West Kalimantan. (AFP/Adek Berry)

In response to Jakarta’s objection to a European Union bill that would cap the use of palm-oil-based biofuels in the region,  the bloc explained that the regulation was not meant to target specific biofuels or feedstocks, but was based on deforestation data from 2008 to 2015 that showed large a proportion of the deforestation was associated with palm oil.

The EU said that the bill was supported by a report based on the best available scientific data from 2008 to 2015, which showed that palm oil has been associated with the highest level of deforestation with 45 percent of the expansion of oil palm plantations taking place in high carbon stock areas.

“Indeed, the productivity factor of palm oil is higher than other crops but the factor used in the formula to determine [indirect land use change or ILUC] is calculated based on the energy-content-of-traded-products of different annual crops such as soy, rape seed and sunflower compared to palm oil,” the EU Embassy in Jakarta said in a press statement.

The reference period starts in 2008 because the year is the cut-off date contained in the EU sustainability criteria for biofuels and 2015 provides the latest availability of consistent data.

The bloc also said that palm oil that is certified as low ILUC-risk can continue to benefit from incentives. Exemptions are also applied for those companies that plant on unused lands and plantations managed by small-hold farmers, considering the large number of smallholders involved in oil palm plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Indonesia has threatened to boycott products from the bloc after the issuance of a European Commission Regulation that singles out palm oil as a commodity that should be capped immediately because of its large contribution to deforestation.

The regulation allows soybeans, sugarcane , sunflower and other types of vegetable oils despite other reports that show that they also cause deforestation.  In a report issued by the European Commission in 2013, which is entitled “The Impact of EU Consumption on Deforestation”, the commission suggests that food crops contributed directly or indirectly to deforestation, including soybeans (19 percent), maize (11 percent) and oil palm (8 percent).

The bloc has also refused to take into account the major reforms Indonesia undertook after it faced one of the worst fires in the country’s history in 2015.

According to the data from the Environment and Forestry Ministry, the country experienced a decline of deforestation in 2017 when it only lost 480,000 hectares of forest -- relatively less than in previous years. The decrease was believed to allow Indonesia to avoid releasing about 4.8 million tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

Read also: Declining deforestation in Indonesia: Anomaly or sustainable trend?

The European Parliament and the European Council are to scrutinize the new regulation in the next two months and if there are no objections raised during this period, the regulation would be passed into law.  

The bloc said the latest data from Indonesia would be assessed during a reassessment period in 2021.

“The European Commission will reassess the data and, if appropriate, the methodology in 2021 and will carry out a revision of the delegated regulation in 2023. At that moment, any efforts undertaken by Indonesia [such as a revamped ISPO, the moratorium, the one-map policy, or the recently adopted national action plan] will be taken into account,” it said.