Dear Members of the European Parliament,
We, the undersigned organisations, as representatives of civil society from across Asia, Africa and Latin America, are seriously concerned about the devastating impact that Europe’s demand for biofuels is having on our forests and millions of our people, and about its significant contribution to rising greenhouse gas emissions.
Soon, you will vote on vital reforms to EU biofuels policy. Unless you take action to restrict demand for biofuels, Europe will continue to force the transformation of our countries’ vital forests, community lands and biodiversity hot-spots into industrial-scale, monoculture oil palm plantations.
Escalating demand for palm oil means an unsustainable global land footprint. Around 90% of the world’s palm oil is grown in Indonesia and Malaysia.iii The Indonesian government plans to double palm oil plantations to around 28 million hectares by 2020iv – an area larger than the entire United Kingdom. Malaysia’s existing plantations cover over 5 million hectares,v with planned expansion of 60,000-100,000 hectares a year on customary lands.vi In Latin America, Colombia recorded over 476,000 hectares of land allocated for palm oil in 2013vii and Peru experienced a five-fold increase in oil palm plantations over the past 15 yearsviii: 72% of new plantations expanded into forested areasix. The Philippines and West and Central Africa have been earmarked as the new frontiers for oil palm development: since 2001, foreign companies have signed deals allocating nearly 4 million hectares to palm oil in West and Central Africax and the Philippine government plans to expand to up to 8 million hectaresxi – 20, 000 hectares of which are within the Palawan UNESCO Man & Biosphere Reserve.xii
This relentless drive for palm oil has devastating and often irreversible consequences for people and the environment in our countries, including:
Land grabbing and conflict: Oil palm companies often occupy customary land without obtaining the free, prior and informed consent of local and indigenous communities, forcing the displacement of people from their ancestral homes. The encroachment of oil palm plantations into indigenous peoples’ ancestral lands violates international law.xiii Non-recognition of land rights causes conflicts between communities and companies, often resulting in violence perpetrated by state security forces in support of oil palm companies, as well as extra-judicial killings.xiv 731 conflicts over land tenure between communities and oil palm plantation companies have been recorded in Indonesia alone.xv
Labour and gender injustice: The industrial oil palm plantation system frequently fails to respect the rights of workers, causes gender injustices and often involves child labour, denying children their right to education. In Caraga, Philippines, 24% of workers in the palm oil industry are reported to be children between 5-17 years old.xvi A high percentage of plantation workers are casual labourers who have no guarantee of safety at work or job security, and are paid wages too low to meet their daily needs.
Loss of clean water supplies, food sovereignty and cultural integrity: Palm oil plantations require huge amounts of water and contaminate vital water sources with effluents,xvii including rivers and lakes used for fishing, washing and drinking. The destruction of forests and fertile agricultural land to make way for oil palm plantations is jeopardising the food sovereignty and cultural integrity of entire communities who depend on the land as their source of food and livelihoods.
Increased carbon emissions: Industrial oil palm plantations are one of the world’s largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions due to Direct and Indirect Land Use Change causing deforestation, draining of carbon-rich peatlands, forest fires and the burning of land. Biofuels which drive the expansion of palm oil will not only fail to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; they could make climate change worse.
The EU Biofuels policies’ sustainability criteria are ineffective in stopping these impacts.
We urge all Members of the European Parliament to vote for biofuels policy reforms which ensure the protection of our people and environment from the impacts of palm oil expansion. We therefore call on the EU to halt the demand for biofuels in Europe and refrain from using biofuels derived from palmoil plantations which:
Drive direct and indirect land use change (ILUC), resulting in the clearing of natural forests and peatlands and globally significant carbon emissions.
Have taken over community lands important for food, clean water supplies, cultural integrity and protecting the environment;
Are developed on lands where companies are in conflict with indigenous peoples and local communities;
Are controlled by companies that are involved in human rights violations, including workers’ and women’s rights and the use of child labour, and that do not respect good governance principles and the rule of law in producer countries.
(197 worldwide civil society organisations)
iPalm oil for biofuels has increased by 365 per cent between 2006 and 2012. Source: IISD. ‘The EU Biofuel Policy and Palm Oil: Cutting subsidies or cutting rainforest?’. September 2013. Available from: http://www.iisd.org/gsi/sites/default/files/bf_eupalmoil.pdf
iiVegetable oil markets and the EU biofuel mandate. The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). February 2013. Source: http://www.theicct.org/sites/default/files/publications/ICCT_vegoil_and_EU_biofuel_mandate_20130211.pdf
ivKedaulatan pangan, hanyalah mimpi, bila kontroversi lahan pangan tidak dihentikan. Sawit Watch. 9 December 2014. Available from: http://sawitwatch.or.id/2014/12/kedaulatan-pangan-hanyalah-mimpi-bila-konversi-lahan-pangan-tidak-dihentikan/
vPalm oil facts and figures. Sime Darby Plantation. April 2014. Available from: http://www.simedarby.com/upload/Palm_Oil_Facts_and_Figures.pdf
viPalm oil and indigenous peoples in South East Asia. Lancoalition.org. January 2011.Available from: http://www.landcoalition.org/sites/default/files/publication/912/FPP_Malaysia_Indonesia_web_11.03.11.pdf
viiBoletín de Prensa: Sector palmero le apuesta a la conservación de la biodiversidad, de la mano con el Instituto Alexander von Humboldt y WWF. 18 February 2014. Available from: http://web.fedepalma.org/sites/default/files/files/Fedepalma/BOLETIN_FEDEPALMAYLABIODIVERSIDAD.pdf
viiiAgraria.pe. Area de palma aceitera se quintuplicó en Perú en los últimos 15 años. June 2014. Available from: http://agraria.pe/noticias/area-de-palma-aceitera-se-quintuplico-en-peru-en-los-ultimos-15-anos
ixGutierrez-Velez, V.H. et al. High-yield oil palm expansion spares land at the expense of forests in the Peruvian Amazon. Environmental Research Letters 6. 2011. Available from: http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/6/4/044029/pdf/1748- 9326_6_4_044029.pdf
xLand grabs for oil palm plantations in Africa and Papua. GRAIN. 22 September 2014. Available from: http://www.grain.org/article/entries/5042-land-grabs-for-oil-palm-plantations-in-africa-and-papua
xi8 Mil Hectares eyes for oil palm plantations. Philippine Daily Inquirer. 26 May 2014. Available from: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/605424/8m-ha-eyed-for-oil-palm-plantations
xiiICCA Consortium. ICCA alert: last chance to halt oil palm rush in palawan ‘man & biosphere reserve’ (the philippines). 2013. Available from: http://www.iccaconsortium.org/?page_id=2248. Other countries with oil palm projects include PNG, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, India, Solomon Islands, Kenya, Tanzania, Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria, Liberia, Guinea, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Guyana, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Mexico.
xiiiSuch as such as the Convention on Biological Diversity; the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage and the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.
xvOil palm and Indonesia, Sawit Watch (Indonesia)/Geodata.cso.org. Available from: http://geodatacso.org/embed/19/Oil%20Palm%20and%20Indonesia
xviiOil processing industries can release 2.5 tonnes of effluent for each tonne of oil processed. Pollution control laws are seldom complied with. For more information see pg. 11, The Bitter Fruit of Oil Palm: Dispossession and Deforestation. World Rainforest Movement. August 2001. Available from: http://wrm.org.uy/oldsite/plantations/material/OilPalm.pdf