EU failed to cut soy and palm oil from biofuels

"The EU inaction is catastrophic for tropical forests", says Toerris Jaeger, Executive Director of Rainforest Foundation Norway.

SOY: Deforestation of the Cerrado in Brazil for soy plantations. Photo: Viktor Moriyama/Rainforest Foundation Norway.

By Kristin Rødland Buick.

Yesterday, the EU decided on a new and updated Renewable Energy Directive (RED). It did not make any significant changes to the biofuel articles, despite numerous warnings from environmental organisations that using soy and palm oil for fuel causes vast amounts of deforestation.

"We are deeply disappointed that the EU has failed to right their wrongs. This will cause continued deforestation and increased carbon emissions, in stark contrast to the directive’s intention,” explains Toerris Jaeger.

Biofuel that fuels climate change
The new directive fuels deforestation. It allows for large volumes of soy- and palm oil-based biofuels, despite scientific research showing that this causes agricultural expansion and deforestation. The carbon released from forests cut to make way for soy and palm oil plantations for biofuels, is higher than that of the fossil fuels they are replacing.

The result is a net increase in carbon emissions. In addition, the expansion of soy and palm oil plantations harm some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet, thus fuelling both the climate and the nature crisis.

EU knew of consequences
According to research commissioned by the European Commission itself, as much 9.5% of land converted to growing soy will come from high carbon-stock areas, mainly forests and peatland. This figure is increasing and is more than previously assumed.

Phasing out soy from biofuels and speeding up the phase-out of palm oil was proposed by the European Parliament, and several European countries already have policies in place to cut soy and palm oil from biofuels.

However, the EU Commission has pushed back during the past months of trilogue negotiations between the Commission, the Parliament and the Council, seemingly guided by fear of upsetting trade negotiations with the MERCOSUR block and of further legal challenges through WTO.

"The EU chose inaction against their better judgment. They know perfectly well the consequences this will have for the world's rainforests, but they let short-term economic interests weigh heavier than what is best for the planet”, concludes Toerris Jaeger.

Kristin Rødland Buick

Senior Adviser International Media, Communications
+(47) 456 56 277