The European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI Committee) published its Draft Report on ‘Palm Oil and Deforestation of Rainforests’ on Nov 3, 2016. It was prepared by the rapporteur and Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Kateřina Konečná.
At the same time, reports on the felling of protected EU forests to assist production of biofuels showcased the clearly two-faced approach by and within the economic bloc, and the need for palm oil producer countries to bring about a more balanced debate on the issue.
The ENVI Committee had held a Public Hearing on ‘Palm Oil and Rainforests: What can the EU do to stop deforestation?’ on March 17, 2016. The aim was to exchange views on the ‘environmental impact’ of the palm oil industry. However, the tone of several statements was clearly against palm oil; consequently, producers were cast in a negative light.
MEP Konečná’s Draft Report contains a motion for a European Parliament Resolution and an explanatory statement on the issue. Such reports often lead to legislative proposals and are an important tool of the European Parliament to influence the legislative agenda and the surrounding public debate. More importantly, they aim at influencing the work of the European Commission (EC).
The European Parliament’s final resolution could lead to repercussions related to trade in palm oil, and may influence the debate on the EU’s regulatory approach to biofuels and sustainability.
During a debate on the Draft Report on Nov 28, 2016, MEPs from a number of political groups took the floor. Several times, the ‘balanced and measured’ nature of the Draft Report was highlighted, which can only be characterised as a clear overstatement of the current text.
References to the ‘reckless cultivation of [oil] palm’; calls for an increase in the applicable import duties; and advocating a ban on palm oil as a component of biodiesel do not appear to be ‘balanced and measured’ statements leading to an equitable resolution by the European Parliament.
In its draft opinion on the Draft Report, the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development underlined again the nature of palm oil as a ‘driver of deforestation’. The Committee on International Trade called for a ban on imports of biodiesel derived from palm oil and even argued that the EU-Indonesia negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) should not cover palm oil.