German Ambassador’s Clever Wordplay Cannot Hide the Truth About EU Palm Oil Ban

As Malaysian Minister of Primary Industries Ms Teresa Kok was engaging European leaders (including in Berlin) holding meetings with her counterparts, Ambassador of Germany to Malaysia Nikolaus Graf Lambsdorff made some strange comments about the status of the EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED) Delegated Act, trying to distance Germany from any responsibility for the EU’s discriminatory plans to ban palm oil.

Let’s decode the comments made by the Ambassador.

  1. “Germany is not going to ban the palm oil trade from countries like Malaysia. However, other European countries have been talking about reducing and maybe stop using the natural resource”.

The German Ambassador is playing with words – not uncommon for a European diplomat. The EU Delegated Act effectively bans palm oil biofuels from Europe as of 2030 – and the phase-out of palm oil biofuels begins in 2024. It is a de facto ban: it will be the end of palm oil biofuels in Europe. EU Parliament officials have confirmed that this is a ban/phase out of palm oil.

Only one biofuel has been determined as “High Risk”. Palm oil. It is the only crop singled out, based on claims about deforestation despite EU’s own Research confirming that soybeans are worse than palm oil for deforestation. Yet soybeans were labelled “Low Risk” in the Delegated Act.

Germany was fully involved in this decision. In fact, Germany is probably the most powerful country in the EU decision-making process. So – yes, Germany is in fact party to the forthcoming ban of palm oil biofuels in Europe.

 

  1. “Malaysia should also reduce the dependency on palm oil and maybe should stop using it in the few years to come as many other European countries are following suit”

This statement from a high-level diplomat is quite something. Malaysian government officials do not make speeches arguing that Germany should rely less on its “dieselgate” polluting car industry.

Besides, the Ambassador’s comment is inaccurate. Palm oil has been an economic and social boon to Malaysia -it has been key to lifting millions of Malaysians out of poverty. The poverty rate has fallen from 45% in the early 1970s to less than 5% today. No other crop is as efficient, productive or profitable. Is the Ambassador suggesting that Malaysians should make themselves poorer, simply to comply with EU diplomats’ opinions?

 

  1. “We need the palm oil as it cheap, environmentally friendlyand sustainable”.

The Ambassador is not completely wrong in his statement. He is correct in regards to Malaysian palm oil’s track record in forest protection and sustainability.

Malaysia protects more than 50% of land as forest area, according to official forest data published by the United Nations. Malaysia’s commitment and conservation efforts were first made in 1992, at the Rio Earth Summit.

Furthermore, Malaysian palm oil cultivation has always prioritised sustainability and the implementation of best agricultural practices. Malaysia’s internationally recognised sustainability scheme, Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certifies all palm oil produced in Malaysia. MSPO guarantees a high-quality product, which is mandatory, tightly regulated and heavily monitored, with strict requirements for sustainability and best agricultural practices.

This shows that the EU is not settled when it comes to palm oil. They recognize its environmentally friendly and sustainable compared to other oilseed crops, yet, the EU is pushing discriminatory palm oil regulation to ban palm oil biofuels.

EU officials are playing on words, trying to fend off any unfair action taken against palm oil, in order to safeguard their interest in future trade agreements and to avoid palm oil producing countries’ retaliation and possible WTO challenge.

This is bound to happen, as the Malaysian and Indonesian Government have recently hinted towards – if EU leaders continue to only listen to anti-palm oil voices in the EU while discarding palm oil producing countries and their ASEAN allies.