Deforestation in Borneo for palm oil production.
British Parliament has approved new government subsidies for biofuel use in U.K. power stations.
In a vote held yesterday, Parliament approved a Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) proposal to allow the burning of palm oil and wood pellets for power production.
Controversially the new measure would potentially subsidize fuels produced from palm oil, a move environmentalists warn could exacerbate deforestation in Africa and Southeast Asia.
“The fate of endangered species and rainforests is directly linked to the decisions we make about where our energy comes from,” said Helen Buckland, Director of the Sumatran Orangutan Society. “DECC have been warned about the consequences of this policy, but have disregarded the multitude of scientific studies which show that burning palm oil for energy is worse for the climate than fossil fuels.”
Most palm oil is currently used for cooking oil, processed foods, cleaning products, and cosmetics.
The DECC has introduced sustainability criteria for palm oil to qualify for subsidies, but campaigners fear that creating further demand for palm oil — even if it is “sustainably produced” — would encourage overall expansion, putting rainforests, peatlands, and endangered wildlife at risk.
“The problem is, the cap is so high that it could lead to a doubling of the UK’s annual palm oil imports, and the sustainability criteria completely fail to take into account the well-documented impacts on ecosystems, biodiversity, communities, food security and the climate that arise from diverting agricultural land from food to fuel production,” said Buckland.
Britain doesn’t currently burn any palm oil in power plants. Most of its palm oil consumption comes in the form of processed foods, cooking oil, and cosmetics.
Research has shown that palm oil production is one of the biggest drivers of deforestation and largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Indonesia, which has one of the world’s highest rates of forest loss.
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