Increased use of biofuels could undermine efforts to phase out palm oil, warns campaign group Transport & Environment (T&E).
The EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED) allows countries to double-count used cooking oil (UCO) towards national renewable energy targets; an incentive that means Europe’s demand for it could more than double by 2030.
However, the campaign group has highlighted that there is a limit to how much UCO European countries can produce, this means countries will become increasingly reliant on imports to meet this growing demand.
China already supplies over a third (34%) of Europe’s UCO imports while almost a fifth (19%) comes from major palm oil producers in Malaysia and Indonesia.
Within the next decade, the volume needed could double to 6 million tonnes, this could trigger palm oil being used to replace cooking oil in exporting countries.
Cristina Mestre, biofuels manager at T&E, said: ‘Europe’s thirst for used cooking oil to power transport is outstripping the amount leftover from the continent’s deep fryers.
‘This leaves us reliant on a waste product being shipped from the other side of the world. The current EU system for biofuels does not provide certainty that used cooking oil is actually used. The controls need to be tightened, but more importantly, the EU needs to limit the use of UCO to avoid doing more harm than good.’
Belgium is the latest country to announce plans to phase out biodiesel made from palm oil and soy within the next two years.
Belgium’s environment minister Zakia Khattabi said the decision was taken because these fuels ‘lead to deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and even human rights violations.
‘To produce the quantity of biodiesel for the Belgian market, palm oil plantations are needed with a total area of more than 100,000 football pitches.’
The EU is due to begin a review of the RED in June. This is an opportunity for the Commission to phase out palm oil earlier, while also tightening rules on used cooking oil, says T&E.
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