The Commission has one last chance before the European Parliament elections in June to include soybean oil alongside palm oil in its classification of high ILUC risk feedstock in the Renewable Energy Directive (RED).
Both soy and palm oil have already been identified as significant drivers of deforestation and forest degradation and are covered under the recently adopted EU Deforestation Regulation. The letter calls on the Commission therefore to ensure policy consistency and prevent the RED from acting as a loophole that enables deforestation-driving products into the EU.
The European Parliament has already called for an immediate phase out of both soybean oil and palm oil during the RED negotiations, while several EU Member States, including France, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands, have already started this phase out on their own accord.
All biofuels made from crops should be phased out from EU renewable energy targets, as using land for biofuel production is counterproductive in climate terms. Soy-based biodiesel is one of the worst offenders, and has been proven to emit up to twice as much CO2 as the fossil fuel diesel it is used to replace, when taking into account the indirect deforestation caused by the demand for soybean oil. Currently, soy and palm biofuels constitute only one third of the EU biodiesel feedstock volume, yet they contribute two thirds of biodiesel CO2 emissions in the EU.
Despite these shocking facts, soy biodiesel has rapidly grown in the EU in recent years. Between 2015 and 2022, the consumption of soy biodiesel in the European Union experienced a fivefold increase, underscoring the need for a critical examination of its environmental and social implications.
What is the Commission waiting for?
The Commission is currently facing heavy trade pressure from soy producing countries, so it remains crucial that the scientific data highlighting the urgent need for the immediate phase-out of both soy and palm biofuels should guide the decision-making process. Phasing-out high ILUC risk feedstocks is compatible with WTO rules, on the basis of environmental protection. Ultimately, trade disputes and negotiations should not deter the EU from making essential climate decisions and aligning with its international commitments. The EU made the right decision when it classified palm oil as a high ILUC risk feedstock in 2019, despite immense trade pressure from palm producing countries. It now has the power to do the same for soy biofuels.