France’s National Assembly ends tax incentives for palm oil in diesel fuel

The French National Assembly today voted to end tax incentives for adding palm oil to diesel fuel as of 2020, effectively removing a powerful subsidy that made this environmentally destructive practice economically attractive for oil companies. French parliamentarians also decided to treat palm oil diesel as a regular fuel and not as a green fuel – therefore it cannot count towards Europe´s targets for renewable energy in transport.

Laura Buffet, clean fuels manager at Transport & Environment (T&E), said: “Two weeks ago the Norwegian Parliament decided to stop using palm oil linked to a high risk of deforestation to make biofuels. Today the French National Assembly voted to stop tax incentives for palm oil diesel, the highest emitting biofuel on the EU market. The next stop is Brussels on 1 February 2019, which is the date by when the European Commission has to propose robust criteria to stop using high deforestation risk biofuels such as palm oil diesel.”

The EU’s Renewable Energy Directive was introduced to accelerate the uptake of renewables such as solar and wind but its transport chapter has promoted the use of food crops like palm oil, rapeseed oil and soy oil to make biofuels.

Palm oil biodiesel has three times the emissions of fossil diesel, because palm expansion drives deforestation and peatland drainage in Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa. Last year, 51% of the palm oil used in Europe ended up in the tanks of cars and trucks. This makes drivers the top (albeit unaware) consumers of palm oil in Europe.

Biofuels can be counted as zero emissions energy for climate accounting purposes. If we would properly account for biofuels’ overall emissions, road transport emissions would be 10% higher.

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