Norway Votes To Ban Deforestation-Linked Palm Oil Biofuels

Trees ripped up on the Marcesina Plain in Italy
Vittorio Zunino Celotto / Getty Images

Last week the parliament in Oslo, Norway, voted to make the Scandinavian country the first in the world to put heavy restrictions on its biofuel industry importing palm oil that is linked to deforestation. The country aims to stop importing deforestation-linked palm oil by 2020.

As reported by EcoWatch, the deforestation that has been linked to the palm oil industry in Indonesia and Malaysia has resulted in major loss of habitat for endangered species such as orangutans. Environmentalists were quick to label the vote a major victory, and hope that other countries around the world will follow suit.

“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,” said Nils Hermann Ranum of the Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN).

Just last year the RFN commissioned a report that showed that oil-based biofuels are more environmentally damaging than the burning of fossil fuels. That same year, Norway’s consumption of palm oil hit an all-time high, with approximately 317 million liters of palm-oil based biodiesel used in 2017. That makes up about 10 percent of the country’s overall diesel consumption, according to the RFN.

The decision to stop purchasing palm oil was actually voted on last year already, but the parliamentary decision to stop the government from doing so was not immediately fully implemented. Instead, the government opted to rely on voluntary measures in the interim.

Last Monday, the new vote was tallied, and is thought to be much stronger than the original decision, with the support of the majority of the government. The resolution calls on the government “to formulate a comprehensive proposal for policies and taxes in the biofuels policy in order to exclude biofuels with high deforestation risk.”

While environmentalists have hailed the decision, there are others who are less than ecstatic about the ban. The Indonesian government has expressed concern that Norway’s decision will lead the way for other countries to implement bans of their own, which could greatly impact the country’s exports.

“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, said.

Oke Nurwan, director-general for foreign trade in Indonesia’s Trade Ministry, also added that the new policy will “amplify the negative impression about palm oil products.”