Norway becomes the first country in the world to ban palm oil biofuels

Environmentalists are hailing the decision as an important victory that will set an example for other countries.

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Norway is set to become the first country in the world to ban its biofuel industry from buying palm oil, a substance that is heavily linked to deforestation.

The ban will come into full effect in 2020 and was voted on by Norwegian parliament this past week. Environmentalists are hailing it as an important victory that will set an example for other countries.

The process of getting to this point has been gradual, with Norwegian politicians banning the government from purchasing palm oil biofuel last year. That vote however only implemented voluntary rules. The vote this past week, which had majority government support, was more comprehensive and covered the entire fuel market.

The new law calls for government “to formulate a comprehensive proposal for policies and taxes in the biofuels policy in order to exclude biofuels with high deforestation risk.”

Norway’s consumption of palm oil in fuels reached an all-time high last year, prompting more drastic measures.

“The Norwegian parliament’s decision sets an important example to other countries and demonstrates the need for a serious reform of the world’s palm oil industry,” said Nils Hermann Ranum of Rainforest Foundation Norway.

Palm oil is heavily linked to deforestation, and specific hotspots in Indonesia have been linked to the decline of wildlife and the persecution of native people. Orangutans have been heavily affected. A report released earlier this year estimated that the global demand from palm oil will increase by six times over the next decade. A 2017 report found that palm oil-based biofuel is worse for the climate than fossil fuels.

Palm oil companies are not celebrating Norway’s decision. “The policy will certainly amplify the negative impression about palm oil products,” says Oke Nurwan, director-general for foreign trade in Indonesia’s Trade Ministry.

The Rainforest Foundation Norway translated the full text of the resolution that was passed in Norway this week:

“The majority [in Parliament] is concerned that indirect land use effects from palm oil production lead to deforestation. The majority therefore believes that the use of palm oil should be limited as much as possible. The majority points out that it is important to find solutions in order to limit and phase out palm oil, and the majority will follow developments closely. The majority therefore puts forward the following proposal:

“Stortinget [the Norwegian Parliament] requests that the Government formulate a comprehensive proposal for measures and taxes in the biofuels policy in order to exclude biofuels with high deforestation risk both within and outside the blending mandate. These framework conditions shall be put forward in conjunction with the national budget for 2020, and shall be introduced from 1 January 2020.”

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