The Norwegian Parliament has voted to introduce a ban on the procurement of palm oil and palm oil products for use as biofuels.
The government now has to introduce a regulation on public procurement that “imposes requirements that biofuel based on palm oil or by-products of palm oil shall not be used”.
Rainforest Coalition Norway, which had been lobbying for the ban, welcomed the move. It said: “Palm oil-based biofuel is a bad choice for the climate and drives rainforest destruction.”
The organisation believes this is the first time a country has banned all use of palm oil biofuel by public bodies.
“Norway’s decision is an important step towards removing environmentally damaging goods from the market. It also demonstrates the need for a serious reform of the world’s palm oil industry,” said Nils Hermann Ranum of Rainforest Foundation Norway.
The decision to ban palm oil biofuel comes almost a year after Norway pledged to make its public procurement policy deforestation-free to ensure the state “does not contribute to deforestation of the rainforest”.
Rainforest Foundation Norway said it had worked for many years to curb the consumption of goods linked to tropical deforestation, including palm oil.
“The Norwegian Parliament’s decision sets an important example to other countries in a region which has seen an aggressive growth in demand for the tropical commodity, stimulated by policies to increase the consumption of renewable energy in transportation,” said the NGO.
The ban coincides with a report by Rainforest Coalition Norway, which found that palm oil is even worse for climate change as a biofuel than the fossil fuels it was designed to replace.
The report said: “There is a large body of evidence that because of indirect land use change, palm oil biodiesel is worse for the climate than the fossil fuel it replaces – perhaps several times worse.”
The report outlined how in the last decade the most rapidly expanding vegetable oil market in the world has been biodiesel, driven in large part by European climate policy.
It estimated that over 3m tonnes of palm oil biodiesel was consumed by EU vehicles in 2014.
The report said that the carbon accounting that has allowed policymakers to believe that palm oil biodiesel is better for the climate than fossil diesel was highly mistaken as it fails to take into account deforestation, peat drainage and biodiversity loss.
Increasing demand for palm oil biofuels in Europe has driven the expansion of oil palm plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia.
“The production of palm oil is one of the main drivers of deforestation and peat destruction in the two countries, resulting in rapid loss of biodiversity; huge carbon emissions from fires and conversion of peatlands,” said Rainforest Foundation Norway.
It added that palm oil plantations were responsible for “land grabs that impoverish forest-dependent communities” and air pollution.
☛ Want to stay up to date with the news? Sign up to our daily bulletin.