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Anti-Palm Oil Ideology in Europe (Part 1 of 2): TEN FACTS

By 26 June 2018October 14th, 2021Industry News5 min read

Arif Havas Oegroseno
Harvard Law School 1992 Alumnus

The anti-palm oil stance all over Europe, not only in European Union, is an ideology. An ideology does not have to be related to a membership of a party or state system. The spectrum is very wide, from the extreme left to the extreme right.

The anti-palm oil stance in Europe is a new unique ideology because there are no spectrums. It comes from the left, middle, left-right, farmers, and industrialists, such as ePure, an association of 23 giant ethanol industries in Europe. ePure admitted in conducting a comprehensive strategy so the European Parliament would only use European local products.

This different combined political power of Europe’s ideological spectrum resulted in European Parliament’s Resolution that bans palm oil as vegetable oil (biofuel) for transportation in Europe starting from 2021. As many as 485 (60 percent) of 751 members of European Parliament that approved the discriminatory anti-palm oil resolution turned a blind eye towards the absence of the same standards towards EU’s local products such as rapeseed, sunflower, and soybean.

Ten Facts

The reason is the deforestation. The European Parliament considers palm oil as unsustainable and must be banned as an ingredient of vegetable oil in the EU. We will see 10 basic facts whether EU’s argument holds any basis.

First, EU’s report itself states that the highest cause of deforestation is livestock, which is 24 percent, soybean (5.4), corn (3.3), and palm oil (2.5). Livestock of cattle, goats, sheep, and pigs in EU is 335 million. In Indonesia, there are only 59 million or 18 percent of the total amount of livestock in EU. However, there are no anti-livestock movements in European Parliament.

Second, the data of the industries in Europe and the United States show that the expansions of agriculture, soybean, rapeseed, and sunflower are more massive compared to palm oil. In 2016, the total area of soybean reaches 121 million ha, rapeseed is 33.6 million ha, sunflower is 24,69 million ha, and palm oil is 20,23 million ha. However, there are no protests from the environmental NGOs in the EU, let alone in Indonesia.

Third, the data from NASA shows that on November 2015, as many as 56 percent of forest fire hotspots occurred outside the plantation or forestry concession area, 33 percent occurred in the forest wood industry area, and 7 percent in oil palm concession area. The data from EU in 2016 and NOAA shows that between 2011-2015, the amount of forest fires in Indonesia (64.000 ha) is much smaller than the ones in the US (2.2 million ha), Russia (2.3 million ha), Portugal (84.000 ha), Spain (107.000 ha), Australia (236.000 ha), as well as Italy and Greece combined (106.000 ha). NOAA satellite shows that the hotspots across Indonesia in January 2018 occurred in 51 locations, while in 2017, it reached 89 locations. In 2015, there are 22.000 spots. NASA’s confidence level reaches 80 percent, whereas European Parliament ignores this data.

Fourth, the amount of deforestation in Indonesia decreased by 30 percent since the last three years from 1 million ha in 2014 to 0.47 million ha in 2017. Deforestation is caused by various things and the decline rate was met with several firm and real policies.

Fifth, Indonesia has the largest peatland in the world, so it must be protected and can not be used for agriculture. In fact, according to the data from Wetland International, from 381 million hectares of the global peatland, peatland in Russia reaches 137.5 million ha, in Europe, it is 29 million ha, 22 million ha in the United States, and in Indonesia, it is 18.5 million ha. And it is no longer a secret that 55.37 of 33 percent of peatland in the United States, Russia, and Europe has become an agricultural land. Meanwhile in Indonesia, it is only 13 percent. It is becoming a question when there are no anti-peatland agriculture protests in Europe. Indonesian NGO never questions why Europeans plant on peatland.

Sixth, the research from the Indonesian peatland experts indicates that the forest carbon stocks of primary peatland is 81 tons per ha, the secondary peatland forest is 57 tons per hectare, palm oil aged 9-12 years reaches 54 tons per ha, and plantations of 14 years reaches 73 tons per ha.

Seventh, FAO’s data confirms that greenhouse gas emission from the agricultural sector in Indonesia is very small, which is 3 percent. EU holds the highest record, which is 28.8 percent, and then China (14), India (13), Brazil (9), and the US (8 percent).

Eighth, experts from the West accused almost 70 percent of palm oil in Indonesia is the result of natural forest logging in a brutal manner. An expert from IPB found different facts. Between the period of 1950-2014, the change from forest to non-forest in Indonesia due to various reasons reaching 99 million ha. In the same period, 64 years, the oil palm plantation developed from 597.000 ha to 10 million ha, a process that is very long and proves that oil palm is not the cause of deforestation. In fact, in many things, oil palm plantation with trees of 12 meter height has a role in reforestation. The total of palm oil reforestation reached 7.9 million ha on 2013. European Parliament did not appreciate this.

Ninth, the result of the research from IE Henson and PPKS shows an important comparison data of carbon uptake and oxygen production between palm oil and tropical forests. Oil palm absorbs 64 tons of carbon per year and releases 18 tons of oxygen per year, meanwhile tropical forests absorbs 42 tons of carbon and releases 7 tons of carbon per year.

Tenth, oil palm needs the least water to produce energy per gigajoule, which is 85 cubic meters, compared to rapeseed with 184 cubic meters, soybean is 100 cubic meters, and sunflower 87 cubic meters.

Source: KOMPAS Daily Newspaper, 4 June 2018