Thursday, 18 September 2008

EU urged to review decision on biofuel

Wednesday September 17, 2008

EU urged to review decision on biofuel

Malaysia, Indonesia ministers get together for the first time to voice concern

LONDON: Malaysia and Indonesia have jointly urged the European Union (EU) to review its decision on renewable energy and fuel quality, particularly on the use of palm oil for the production of biofuel.

Both Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui and Indonesian Agriculture Minister Dr Anton Apriyantono have voiced concern over the move by the European Parliament’s influential Industry Committee.

Chin said the two countries would continue to engage with EU member states on the committee’s decision to increase the percentage of carbon emission savings for palm-based biodiesel from the threshold value of 35% to 45%.

Describing the move as illogical, he wondered how the EU would get its supply of biofuel once the three major raw materials of oil palm, rape seed and soya were weeded out.

Datuk Peter Chin (left) having a discussion with two forum participants
“If the RSPO (Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil) is accepted as sustainable palm oil, whether it’s used for food or fuel doesn’t matter because it’s sustainable anyway,” he told a joint press conference with Apriyantono on the sidelines of the World Sustainable Palm Oil Conference on Monday.

Earlier, Chin had delivered a keynote speech at the conference themed “The Road Ahead for Sustainable Palm Oil” jointly organised by the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute, Malaysian Palm Oil Board and Malaysian Palm Oil Council.

This is the first time that ministers from two of the world’s largest producers of palm oil have come together to address a forum that brought together government and corporate leaders, strategic thinkers and research bodies.

Chin said the EU should not impose another level of certification through the 45% threshold so long as sustainable palm oil could be produced from any source.

“How can we be subjected to two certifications and probably the high costs too?” he said in response to the negative perception towards palm oil.
In his speech, Chin said the past few years had seen the oil palm industry confronted with issues concerning the environment, particularly deforestation, loss of biodiversity and threat to wildlife.

The situation had been aggravated lately with concerns on carbon emission from peat land development, he said, adding that these issues projected a wrong image of the industry to consumers worldwide.

“While our industry is committed to supplying the world with quality palm oil, we are also committed to keeping our forests intact.”

Chin said the use of palm oil for biodiesel had not been spared from criticism despite its principal goal as a source of “green energy.”

He expressed concern that the pressure for strict sustainability requirements in the EU as well as in the US might lead to imposition of policies that impeded palm oil trade.

Such a move, he said, could even border towards a contravention of the principles of the World Trade Organisation and free trade.

“While there are always opportunities to improve the palm oil industry, it should not be singled out as being responsible for the environmental degradation in my country, much less to that of the world’s environmental woes,” he added.

The minister had earlier led a nine-day joint ministerial mission to The Hague and Brussels where he held discussions with Dutch Minister of Environment and Spatial Planning Jacqueline Cramer as well as Agriculture Minister Gerda Verburg.