Press Release

900k football pitches of forest at risk as EU chooses free trade over the environment

March 28, 2023

Delayed end to soy and palm oil biofuels will contribute to vast deforestation in palm and soy oil producing countries

The European Union’s hesitancy to end the use of palm and soy oil in biofuels is putting over 630,000 hectares of forest and peatland at risk – the equivalent of 900,000 football pitches. The new analysis from Transport & Environment (T&E) comes as the EU’s executive body is pushing back against a motion by members of the European Parliament to phase out these harmful biofuels. 

As part of an update to the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED), European parliamentarians voted last year to end the use of palm and soy biofuels immediately in a bid to stop a practice that is driving deforestation and resulting in more carbon emissions than the fossil diesel they replace. 

Leaked notes, obtained by T&E, show that the Commission is seeking to block the proposal out of concerns over further disputes at the World Trade Organization (WTO), where it is currently in a trade dispute with Indonesia and Malaysia over the phase out of palm oil from EU biofuels. There are also strong suspicions that it is also worried about jeopardising trade talks with Mercosur, where countries like Argentina are pushing to protect its $1.8 billion a year worth of exports of soy biodiesel to the EU.

Maik Marahrens, senior biofuels campaigner at T&E, said: “The science is clear. Soy and palm-based biodiesels are two to three times worse for the climate than the fossil diesel they replace, yet the EU continues to promote them as sustainable. All for the sake of avoiding trade disputes. This isn’t good enough. We need to increase forest cover, not take more away. The EU must choose the climate over free trade.”

Final negotiations for the Renewable Energy Directive have been set for 29 March.

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