Thursday, 18 June 2009

Welcome help from a supporter with raising awareness.

Received by a supporter in reply to questions she raised with her MEP. Makes for interesting reading.



Thank you for your email of 8 June regarding the destruction of the rainforests and the threat to the Orangutan population.

As you suggest palm oil production and demand is increasing deforestation in Borneo, and it is vital that we halt unsuitable and illegal logging activities in the region.

I am pleased that the EU is supporting a number of activities in the region to aid the Orangutans’ habitat directly and indirectly through financial support to a sustainable forest management and conservation project and funding an illegal logging support centre; as well as supporting regional research into the Orangutans’ habitat.

Recent legislative proposals by the Commission to reduce illegal logging meaning only specifically licensed timber would be considered as legally harvested, is a welcome step but in reality are measures that lack teeth. Implementation and penalties for operators will be left to the discretion of Member States, which will undermine the promise to create a level playing field and apply strict criminal penalties.

The Regulation also allows for operators to choose their own system of due diligence, leading to confusion among consumers about which verification schemes are the most credible.

Moreover, the proposed due diligence system is too weak. Operators must show due diligence in checking the legality of the timber, but if the imported timber is found to be illegal, no offence will have been committed as long is operators can show that they tried to verify the legality of the timber.

The EU is the worlds second largest consumer of palm oil, and palm oil is increasingly being used for biofuels, a source of energy which is set to increase in the near future. As a result of the rigorous campaigning by Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive now has sustainability criteria and strong reporting and review requirements set within it meaning biofuels will only expand in the EU within strict parameters, and will mean the impact of biofuel production in places such as South East Asia will be monitored.

Your email makes the interesting suggestion of providing greater information to consumers on the impact products have on the Orangutan population, and I would certainly never want to prevent consumers having greater information, as long as presented in a clear way. I have therefore written to Commissioner Kuneva, the Consumer Protection Commissioner for her comments on such a scheme.

I will be pleased to revert to you when I have received a response.

Yours sincerely,

Graham Watson MEP
Member of the European Parliament for South West England and Gibraltar and
Leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe in the European Parliament