Green fuel a green furphy - HSI calls for end to palm oil subsidies
The Dutch Government has just excluded palm oil from ‘green energy’ subsidies due to a realisation that its environmental credentials are not what they seem. Humane Society International (HSI) is asking Parties at the Australian election to commit to the same.
“Vast swathes of peat swamp forest are being felled and drained for palm oil plantations across South East Asia, causing massive greenhouse gas emissions and sounding the death knell for species like the orangutan,” said Rebecca Keeble HSI Program Manager. The Australian Government has been supporting the destruction by providing a 38 cents a litre subsidy for palm oil as part of the Clean Fuels Grants Scheme.
The Dutch Environment Ministry has expressed regret for supporting palm oil in the past and last week introduced legislation to exclude palm oil for two years from the subsidies other green fuels receive from the Dutch Government. The Dutch ban can be lifted as soon as the sector is able to develop a clear certification scheme that guarantees the fulfilment of sustainability criteria. Such criteria must involve a full carbon account and exclude palm oil produced on peatlands and recently deforested areas.
“Australia has a special responsibility to act because palm oil plantations are wreaking havoc on the rainforests of our nearest neighbours in Indonesia, Malaysia and PNG,” said Ms Keeble. “The drainage of peat forests is a globally significant and increasing source of CO2 emissions caused by the misguided folly of Government policies in developed countries. Now the mistake is known the Australian Government should act immediately to redress it and put a stop to the subsidies.”
Federal Environment Minister, Malcolm Turnbull has announced that a Coalition Government would push for international action on the sustainable sourcing of palm oil at the United Nations climate talks in Bali in December, which HSI has congratulated. However, while negotiations ensue, Australia must take immediate unilateral action to end our own palm oil subsidies because negotiations for international action will take time; time the forests can ill afford.
HSI’s preferred position would be to see an outright ban on palm oil products until there are reliable mechanisms to ensure forests are not destroyed for their production. To this end we have called for commitments to a Tropical Forest Conservation Act including a mandatory certification and labelling system (including import prohibitions) in relation to the import of tropical timbers, palm oil and other tropical forest products.