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  • People or palm oil corporations: who will the EU listen to?

    More than 65,000 Europeans have taken part in the public consultation urging the Commission to close the door to palm oil and soy in diesel

    Press statement on behalf of the #NotInMyTank international NGO coalition

    It’s decision time for the European Commission. The much awaited Act on the use of food crops that cause deforestation, such as palm oil and soy, is due for publication this  week.

    It’s been a very controversial measure since the very beginning, with palm oil and soy producers on one side and European civil society, farmers, the environmental movement and the European Parliament and the Council (the two ‘elected’ European Institutions) on the other.

    It has opened a rift within the Commission itself, with some Commissioners in favour of the solution EU citizens are demanding and some trying to weaken the Act for the sake of trade deals and diplomatic relationships with ASEAN countries.

    During the four-week public consultation (February 8th to March 8th) more than 65,000 ordinary citizens participated, overcoming the clunky and unfriendly mechanism set up by the Commission, to send a clear message to Juncker’s Commission: “Amend the Act or it will be rejected by Parliament”. This comes on top of 650,000 people signing a similar petition earlier this year.

    It all started last June: after approving the new Directive on Renewable Energy (REDII) the European Parliament and the Council gave a mandate to the EU Commission to set clear criteria to decide which food crops used in the production of biofuels (mostly a blend of diesel and vegetable oils) should be considered as the most environmentally damaging (or, technically, ‘high ILUC risk’) and therefore not receive subsidies anymore.

    The measure, technically a ‘Delegated Act’, should have been published by February 1st but, due to intense lobbying, the Commission only published its draft Act during the night of February 8th. Although, on the face of it, the Act fulfills some of what the Commission was asked to do (palm oil, but not soy, is declared unsustainable) the draft law offers a vast array of loopholes to allow business as usual.

    On the eve of the adoption of the Act, the members of the pan-European coalition of NGOs #notinmytank sent an unequivocal message to the Commission.

    Quotes from coalition members:

    Sascha Müller-Kraenner, director of Germany’s Deutsche Umwelthilfe, said: “The strong voice of civil society with over 64,000 objections to the delegated act cannot be ignored by the EU Commission. We need a binding commitment to reject the use of palm oil as an additive to biodiesel. Otherwise, the deforestation of the rainforests will continue.

    Karin Lexén, Secretary General of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, said: “In Sweden there’s a strong and positive commitment to end the use of fossil fuels. The European Commission and Cecilia Malmström must ensure that the shift from fossil to renewable fuels doesn’t lead to rainforest destruction with an even higher negative impact on the climate and biodiversity than the use of fossil fuels.

    Rosalía Soley of Spain’s Ecologistas en Acción, said: “The delegated act should be an instrument for countries such as Spain, the largest importers of palm oil in the EU, to impose the definitive removal of palm and soy from biofuels and our energy sources. Citizens are contributing to the debate from a critical and informed position, they are capable of putting common objectives and sustainability above economic interests. That is why not only the European Commission, also the MEPS and the Spanish government should take the issue seriously and must listen carefully to the people that say “We do not want palm and soy oil in our thanks.

    Sylvain Angerand, spokesman of Les Amis de la Terre France and founder of Canopée (France), said: “The message sent by citizens is clear: we don’t want palm oil in our tanks. And it’s strongly politically backed by the EU Parliament. The decision of the Commission will be a stress-test for EU institutions credibility, just before decisive political elections.

    Giorgio Zampetti, Executive Director at Italy’s Legambiente, said: “It’s time to end for good unsustainable biofuels that destroy forests and damage biodiversity. We appeal to the Commission: this is the time to be responsible and brave. Governments and corporates must transition quickly towards sustainable mobility that is shared, public and electric. In the future only sustainable biofuels such as those produced with recycled vegetable oils, leftovers from the wood pulp sector, and biomethane from litter.

    Ton Sledsens of Milieudefensie’s forests campaign (The Netherlands), said: “It is High Noon for the Commission. It must listen to its citizens and save the rainforest or get in bed with the biofuel lobby and force citizens to buy their products that cause deforestation on a huge scale. We call on all Dutch representatives to save the trust of the citizens in the European project. Vice-president Timmermans, listen to us: the use of soy- palm- and other vegetable oils causes severe climate damage and IS NOT NECESSARY. One acre of solar panels drives 100 times as many cars as one acre of biofuels. And to all Dutch MEPs: please side with your voters!

    Noé Lecocq of Inter-Environnement Wallonie (Belgium), said: “Belgian people know palm oil production can be very destructive of the environment and the climate. But most of them just ignore that 63.000 cubic metres of palm oil has been blended in the diesel fuel sold in Belgian gas stations last year. Once people know, most agree this should come to an end.

    Francisco Ferreira, President of ZERO, Portugal, said: “It is time for the European Commission to be truly ambitious and with the support of thousands of European citizens who participated in the public consultation of the Delegated Act, to put an end to any form of use of palm oil for the production of biofuels.

    Fatah Sadaoui, Campaign Manager at SumOfUs, said: “The European Commission should listen to the people, not lobbies. And the people have clearly taken position against palm oil in biofuels. In a powerful demonstration of what real democracy looks like, 650,000 Europeans have signed a petition demanding the end of the dirty palm oil biofuel scandal, and a whopping 65,000 of them voiced their concerns about the massive loopholes found in the delegated act during the public consultation. Europeans have one clear demand: no more deforestation in our tanks, and this week, the Commission has the opportunity to do the right thing by fixing the environment-wrecking loopholes still present in the delegated act.”

    Laura Buffet, clean fuels manager for the European federation of green NGOs, Transport & Environment (Brussels), said: “Europeans don’t want palm oil in their cars’ tanks. EU Parliamentarians and European ministers don’t want it either. The Commission should use this unique opportunity to shut the door to palm oil biofuels, which is very damaging for the climate and wildlife.

    For more info, please contact:

    Nico Muzi – Transport & Environment

    Director of Communications

    T +32 (0)2 851 02 05

    M +32 (0)484 27 87 91

    Laura Buffet – Transport & Environment

    Clean fuels manager

    +32 (0)490 645 955

    Maria Rydlund – Swedish Society for Nature Conservation

    Sakkunnig tropisk skog | Senior Policy Advisor Tropical Forest

    +46 (0) 8 702 65 08

    Sylvain Angerand – Canopeé/Amis de la terre France

    + 33 7 51 69 78 81

    Rosalía Soley – Ecologistas en acciòn (Spain)

    +34 611 40 17 80

    Peer Cyriacks, Deutsche Umwelthilfe (Germany)

    Deputy head nature conservation

    +49 (0)30 2400867 892

    Nuno Forner – Zero (Portugal)

    +351 911 507 704

    Andrea Poggio – Legambiente (Italy)

    Ufficio Stampa: +39 0686268353 +39 3496546593

    Noé Lecocq – Inter-Environnement Wallonie (Belgium)

    +32 495 671 920

    Wim Brouwer – Milieudefensie

    +31 6 2353 8716