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Best Practices voor een duurzame toekomst
27 oktober 2007

Bio-fuels: Dutch government marks time

Food giant Unilever joined Friends of the Earth (FoE) in its lobby against the use of vegetable oils for bio-fuels. “We are heading straight for a catastrophe”, says Unilever’s manager External Affairs, Willem-Jan Laan, in the daily NRC Handelsblad. Unilever sees prices for vegetable oils rising as a result of the increasing world-wide demand for climate neutral fuels. Unilever fears unfair competition between “the fuel-dollar of the rich and the food-dollar of the poor.” Laan: “We don’t want to be responsible for burning food from developing countries in our SUVs.”

To further increase the pressure, Indonesian Minister for Agriculture, Anton Apriyantono, will visit Cramer on Monday 29 October to inform her about developments in the Indonesian palm oil sector. Apriyantono is calling on the EU members to collectively face the problems with (un)sustainable palm oil.

Minister Cramer has excluded palm oil from the subsidy scheme for a period of two years until enough sustainable palm oil that meets the criteria of the so-called Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) becomes available. The RSPO is a multi-stakeholder initiative which aim is “to promote the growth and use of sustainable palm oil through co-operation within the supply chain and open dialogue between its stakeholders”. Members represent major players along the palm oil supply chain. Last year RSPO developed an elaborate guidance document detailing the principles and criteria for sustainable palm oil production.

FoE is asking Minister Cramer to go further. FoE campaigner Anne van Schaik says: “We call on her to speak out against the EU-commitment to secure 10 percent of transport fuels comes from bio-fuels by 2020. Without good sustainable criteria in place, this commitment can only lead to a disaster for man and environment in developing countries.”

FoE fears that the availability of RSPO-certified palm oil could remove the inhibitions about the use of palm oil for biomass. Subsidies could spur demand while supply of sustainable palm oil lags behind. This will lead to more deforestation and social problems, FoE fears. Indonesia and Malaysia intend doubling their palm oil production area to 18 or 22 million hectares, a territory 5 times the size of the Netherlands.
P+ webtip: Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil

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