Palm oil plantations could be classified as forests

The targeting of land for palm oil plantations poses a bigger threat to deforestation than illegal logging

The EU is currently deciding upon its rules for classifying 'sustainable' biofuels

European Commission guidance would allow biofuels to be labelled as sustainable even if forests have been destroyed to make way for the palm oil plantations

EU plans to allow palm oil plantations to be classified as 'forests' have been strongly criticised by environmental campaigners.

According to a leaked document from the European Commission, reclassifying palm plantations as forested land could be justified and allow it to meet sustainability criteria.

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'Continuously forested areas are defined as areas where trees have reached, or can reach, at least heights of 5 meters, making up a crown cover of more than 30 per cent. They would normally include forest, forest plantations and other tree plantations such as palm oil. Short rotation coppice may qualify if it fulfils the height and canopy cover criteria.

'This means,' continues the leaked document, 'for example, that a change from forest to oil palm plantation would not per se constitute a breach of the criterion. A change form short rotation coppice to annual agricultural crops could constitute a breach of the criterion.'

Sustainable biofuels

Friends of the Earth said the plans, if accepted, would allow rainforest to be destroyed to make way for palm plantations and the resulting biofuel to still be classified as sustainable.

'If the incoming Commission is serious about tackling climate change and halting biodiversity loss it needs to clean up the biofuels legacy and urgently ensure that forests are not sacrificed to fuel cars,' said Friends of the Earth agrofuels campaign coordinator Adrian Bebb.

The EU is due to publish a report on greenhouse gas emissions from biofuel production in March 2010.

A Nuffield Council consultation on next generation biofuels and whether they can be environmentally sustainable is currently under way. The deadline for public views is 15th March 2010.

Useful link
EU document on sustainability criteria for biofuels

Nuffield Council consultation on biofuels


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