Palm oil producers and environmental activists alike have expressed dismay at a move by European officials to phase out palm-oil based biofuel by 2030. Officials in Indonesia and Malaysia - who together produce 85% of palm oil globally - say the move is discriminatory and have vowed a vigorous response, including lobbying EU member states, bringing the matter before the World Trade Organisation, and imposing retaliatory measures on EU goods.
Environmental activists, on the other hand, say the policy does not go far enough leaving loopholes allowing palm oil to be treated as a renewable fuel, allowing continued expansion of palm plantations into peat forests. They also criticize the policy’s failure to label soybean oil as high risk, with growing evidence that soy cultivation may have greater deforestation risks than palm oil.
A new Global Witness report, ‘Deadly Environment’, shows there has been a surge in the killing of activists protecting land rights and the environment over the past decade with three times as many deaths in 2012 compared to the previous 10 years. Between 2002 and 2013, at least 908 activists were killed in 35 countries with only 10 convictions. The most deadly countries in the scope of the report were Brazil (448 since 2002), Honduras (109), Philippines (67), Peru (58) and Thailand (16). The deaths are linked to activism against a range of activities including illegal logging, cattle ranching, soy bean farming, mining and the building of hydroelectric dams.