Australian Government to push for palm oil certification

Palm oil is a favourite feedstock for biodiesel production. It is well known that the global demand for biodiesel has led to the clearing of rain forests in Malaysia and Indonesia to make way for palm plantations.

The Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Malcolm Turnbull said Australia will push for international action on the sustainable sourcing of palm oil as part of its efforts to curb global deforestation.

The challenge we face is that because palm oil can only be grown within ten degrees of the equator, growing demand for palm oil as feedstock for “green” biofuels, especially in Europe, is promoting deforestation in tropical rainforest countries.

While Australia’s imports of palm oil are very small relative to the global industry, I asked my Department to report to me on both the domestic and international position on palm oil production and use and consult with major palm oil importing countries, especially in Europe.

I am advised that the two biodiesel plants which have commenced operations in Australia in the last year and which use palm oil have both undertaken to source their feedstock through companies that abide by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The RSPO was established in 2002 to ensure palm oil was produced sustainably.

If palm oil is produced in areas which had previously been cleared for agriculture, biodiesel based on that palm oil does have a considerable reduction in CO2 emissions compared to petroleum. However if the land is cleared of rainforest or, worse still, forested peatland is cleared, the CO2 emissions attributed to that palm oil are in fact greater than petroleum.

Mr Turnbull intends to take a proposal to the UN climate change meeting in Bali in December to establish an international certification scheme for the sourcing of palm oil from sustainable sources.

Source: The AgeThe Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP

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