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Norway bans palm oil-based biofuel in its public procurement

A majority in the Norwegian parliament has voted to ban the public procurement and use of biofuel based on palm oil. "This is a ground-breaking victory in the fight for the climate and rainforests", says Rainforest Foundation Norway.

The Norwegian parliament considered a number of proposals for Norway’s biofuels policy, several of them designed to limit the use of palm oil in biodiesel. The resolution adopted in early June instructs the government to introduce a regulation on public procurement that “imposes requirements that biofuel based on palm oil or by-products of palm oil shall not be used*.”

During the debate over the proposal, the majority requested that this be done in a way that does not violate international trade agreements. In addition, the parliament instructs the government to advocate for the rejection by the fuel industry of the use of palm oil biofuel.

Palm oil biofuel worse than fossil fuel

To avoid dangerous climate change, it is crucial to find environmentally friendly alternatives to fossil fuels. However, a new report launched by Rainforest Foundation Norway today shows that palm oil-based biofuel is worse for the climate than fossil fuels.

The report, "For Peat's Sake", written by the renowned low carbon fuels policy expert Dr. Chris Malins and commissioned by Rainforest Foundation Norway, concludes that “There is a large body of evidence that because of indirect land use change (ILUC), palm oil biodiesel is worse for the climate than the fossil fuel it replaces – perhaps several times worse”.

Read the report "For Peat's Sake" here.

Underlining the deforestation risk associated with European climate policy, the report also argues that the sustainability criteria in the European Union’s Renewable Energy Directive “have a very limited effectiveness in preventing biofuel-led deforestation.”

Another first for Norway

The decision to ban palm oil-based biofuel comes a year – almost to the day – after Norway’s unparalleled and internationally lauded pledge that the government’s public procurement policy be deforestation-free to ensure the state does "not contribute to deforestation of the rainforest".

“Palm oil- based biofuel is a bad choice for the climate and drives rainforest destruction. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time a country bans all use of palm oil biofuel by public entities. Norway’s decision is an important step towards removing environmentally damaging goods from the market. It also demonstrates the need for a serious reform of the world’s palm oil industry,” says Nils Hermann Ranum of Rainforest Foundation Norway.

Rainforest Foundation Norway has worked for many years to curb the consumption of goods linked to tropical deforestation, including palm oil. The Norwegian parliament’s decision sets an important example to other countries in a region which has seen an aggressive growth in demand for the tropical commodity, stimulated by policies to increase the consumption of renewable energy in transportation.

This increase in demand in Europe has in turn driven the expansion of oil palm plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia, at the expense of carbon and biodiversity-rich rainforests and peatlands. The production of palm oil is one of the main drivers of deforestation and peat destruction in the two countries, resulting in rapid loss of biodiversity; huge carbon emissions from fires and conversion of peatlands; land grabs that impoverish forest-dependent communities; and air pollution that causes chronic respiratory ailments and premature deaths.

The governing conservative minority coalition was defeated in its opposition to the ban, as all other parties in parliament united behind the proposal.

“It is highly positive that Norway has now followed up on last year’s pledge to ensure deforestation-free supply chains through the government’s public procurement policy with this strong commitment. It is now incumbent on other consumer countries to follow suit. In particular, the EU should take urgent steps to reduce the consumption of commodities, such as palm oil biodiesel, that are linked to rainforest destruction and accompanying greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss and human rights violations. A revision of the EU biofuel policy, to avoid biofuels that drive deforestation and are worse for the climate than fossil fuels, is urgently needed”, says Nils Hermann Ranum of Rainforest Foundation Norway.

*The full text of the resolution that was passed is: «The Storting [Parliament] calls on the government to impose requirements through regulations to the Act on public procurement that biofuel based on palm oil or by-products of palm oil shall not be used. The regulatory amendment shall enter into force as soon as possible.»