Globally, average palm oil yields have been more or less stagnant for the last 20 years, so the required increase in palm oil production to meet the growing demand for biofuels has come from deforestation and peat destruction in Indonesia. Without fundamental changes in governance, we can expect at least a third of new palm oil area to require peat drainage, and a half to result in deforestation.
Currently, biofuel policy results in 10.7 million tonnes of palm oil demand. If the current biofuel policy continues we expect by 2030:
• 67 million tonnes palm oil demand due to biofuel policy.
• 4.5 million hectares deforestation.
• 2.9 million hectares peat loss.
• 7 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions over 20 years, more than total annual U.S. GHG emissions.
It must always be remembered that the primary purpose of biofuel policy in the EU and many other countries is climate change mitigation. Fuel consumers in the European Union, Norway and elsewhere cannot be asked to continue indefinitely to pay to support vegetable oil based
alternative fuels that exacerbate rather than mitigate climate change.
The use of palm oil-based biofuel should be reduced and ideally phased out entirely. In Europe, the use of biodiesel other than that produced from approved waste or by-product feedstocks should be reduced or eliminated.
In the United States, palm oil biodiesel should continue to be restricted from generating advanced RINs under the Renewable Fuel Standard. Indonesia should reassess the relationship between biofuel mandate, and its international climate commitments, and refocus its biofuel programme on advanced biofuels from wastes and residues. The aviation industry should focus on the development of advanced aviation biofuels from wastes and residues, rather than hydrotreated fats and oils.
Excerpts from Dr Chris Malins, Driving deforestation: The impact of expanding palm oil demand through biofuel policy, January 2018
In Feb. 28, 2019, Norway’s $1 trillion sovereign wealth fund, the world’s largest, pulled out of more than 33 palm oil companies over deforestation risks.