EU Lawmakers to Look Into Palm Oil Discrimination Claims

European Union (EU) lawmakers are increasingly

convinced that Malaysia is on the same path as the EU on the

sustainability of palm oil production, but would need more scientific

data to support Malaysia’s case.

Dan Jorgensen, who is the vice-chair of the environment, public health

and food safety committee in the European Parliament, has promised to

bring Malaysia’s case on its discrimination versus other oils in the

Renewable Energy Directive (RED).

“We don’t want any

discrimination at all of the palm oil sector, and we promised the

industry here to help have discussions with the EU on this,” he said.

Jorgensen, who was in Malaysia last week with two other Members of the

European Parliament (MEPs) Martin J. Callanan and Ole K. Christensen,

were impressed with the work undertaken by the government and the palm

oil industry and the sustainability efforts.

“People there

don’t know how efficient an oil it (palm oil) is. I wasn’t aware myself

how much oil you can get per hectare compared with other oils – in that

way it is discriminated against,” he added.

Oil palms on the average produce 2.5 times more oil per ha than

rapeseed.

According to the RED which will come into force in

December this year, biofuels must have greenhouse gas savings of at

least 35 per cent and according to EU’s calculation, the use of palm

oil-based biodiesel failed the requirement as it achieved only 19 per

cent.

“We promise to look into the discrimination (claim) and,

if there is, we’ll do anything in our powers to change it. The numbers

would need to be accurate and based on scientific data,” said Jorgensen.

A social democrat MEP who hails from Denmark, Jorgensen said the EU is

committed to the sustainability criteria as it helps mitigate problems

of greenhouse gases, climate change, global warming and also

biodiversity.

“We’re happy to hear that the industry

acknowledges and respects it. They have been discussing how it can

become more competitive on the sustainability criteria.”

Jorgensen also suggested that the palm oil industry considers making

entrapment of methane gas mandatory to increase the energy efficiency of

Malaysia.

Palm oil mills are currently encouraged to trap

methane gas from palm oil mill effluent.

“We are convinced

that the industry has been doing a lot and we expect it will proceed to

become more sustainable because palm oil is important for biofuel as

well as oil for food,” he said.

The parliamentarians recognised

that palm oil has been the largest contributor of wealth in the country

and lends bigger potential compared to the other edible oils.

Christensen also lauded the Malaysian government and the industry for

their achievements in bringing the people out of the poverty bracket and

also providing employment, especially in the Felda smallholder schemes.

“Palm oil is not a bad thing as is being perceived by many people in

Europe. We are gratified that Malaysia has strict laws in place to make

sure no more rainforests are destroyed and expansion is on agriculture

land,” said Callanan.

Callanan also does not expect Malaysia to

be affected by the RED in the short term as the use of palm oil for

biofuel is still very small.

Malaysia’s ambassador to the EU,

Hussein Haniff, who also attended the meeting in Kuala Lumpur, said more

outreach programmes were necessary to enable the EU lawmakers to be

convinced that Malaysia is not clearing rainforests to grow oil palm.

There is also the tendency to lump both Malaysia and Indonesia, the

top two producers of palm oil, together.

“We want an equal

playing field and they are willing to take up on the verification of

scientific data. From what we know, they have outdated data.

“In the process of review, if they find the default value is not 19 per

cent, then it will be good for us to be on par with the other oils,”

said Hussein.

Source : Business Times by Rupa Damodaran

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