In an unprecedented move, Norwegian Parliamentarians on December 4 voted to stop its biofuel industry from importing palm oils linked with deforestation. Norway is the first country to take action on palm oil which has been catastrophic for the rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia and it has caused concern among palm oil producers as other countries can follow the same. The decision is part of Norway’s national budget of 2019 and the country will be implementing the ban from the beginning of 2020.
Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN), an NGO fighting to save rainforests and for rights of its inhabitants, celebrated the move as a victory in the fight for the #rainforest and the climates.
“The Norwegian parliament’s decision sets an important example to other countries and underlines the need for a serious reform of the world’s palm oil industry,” says Nils Hermann Ranum of Rainforest Foundation Norway.
As the #COP24 #climatechange summit opened, Norway made a bold move. #Biofuels based on high #deforestation risk feedstocks such as #palmoil will be excluded by 2020. This is a victory in the fight for the #rainforest and the climate, says @RainforestNORW https://t.co/R6kKAiCzlg pic.twitter.com/RIbmKEqAtk
— Rainforest Foundation Norway (@RainforestNORW) December 6, 2018
Palm oil and Norway
According to a report commissioned by Rainforest Foundation Norway, in 2017, Norway consumption of palm oil based biofuels reached an all-time high. The report termed the current ongoing palm oil expansion “an environmental catastrophe”. The palm oil industry in Southeast Asia has been inextricably linked to deforestation, habitat loss and peat destruction, in some of the most biodiversity-rich areas of the planet even resulting into habitat loss of endangered Orangutans.
A comprehensive policy will be formulated and taxes in the biofuels policy will be introduced in order to exclude biofuels with high deforestation risk. The law is considered to be stronger than an earlier decision by govt to rely on voluntary measures to decrease the usage.
Indonesia, which is the largest exporter of Palm oil raised concerns over the decision. “Although the impact will not be significant (on our exports), that will become a bad example for other countries,” Fadhil Hasan, the director for foreign affairs of the Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association, told The Straits Times.
Palm oil and deforestation
Palm oil is a variety of vegetable oil extracted from the seeds of oil palm. The trees are grown in abundance in plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia. As reported by Independent, around 66 million tonnes of palm oil is produced every year. Also, palm oil is found in almost half of the packaged good in UK supermarkets. It is used in products like shampoo, candles, lipstick, chocolate and bread.
It may be noted that oil palms are grown in low-lying, tropical regions. Such areas are home to an array of endangered species like orangutans, rhinos and tigers. More particularly orangutans because they live high in the forest canopy and their habitat is the prime target for expanding the palm oil operations. A news report by Greenpeace found that palm oil suppliers to the world’s largest brands have cleared more than 1,300 square kilometres (500 square miles) of rainforest — an area the size of the city of Los Angeles — since the end of 2015. The sheer number of these animals that may have lost their natural habitat is outrageously high.