Biofuels (including for aviation) to drive massive increase in palm and soy demand by 2030
A new report by Rainforest Foundation Norway looks at the impact of global biofuel policies on tropical deforestation. Palm oil and soy, in particular, are biofuel feedstocks that are associated with high deforestation risk. The report analyses biofuel policies in all key markets and assesses. It found the impact on demand for palm oil and soy-based biofuels in the coming decade will be huge, and may rise by over 60 million more tonnes of palm oil by 2030. That is about 90% of current global palm oil production. The demand for soy oil might rise by over 40 million tonnes, about 75% of current production. This would cause an estimated 7 million hectares of deforestation, including up to 3.6 million hectares of peat drainage. There would be tragic loss of biodiversity, including charismatic species like orang utans. The deforestation would cause over 11 billion tonnes of extra CO2 entering the atmosphere, by 2030 (more than China’s annual CO2 emissions). The aviation industry is potentially the largest consumer of high deforestation risk biofuels, followed by Indonesia and Brazil. The world is in a dual ecological crisis of climate change and biodiversity loss. This use of biofuels is NOT the answer, to either crisis.
Biofuels to drive massive increase in palm and soy demand by 2030
On behalf of Rainforest Foundation Norway
Oslo, 10 March 2020
A new report looks at the impact of global biofuel policies on tropical deforestation. Palm oil and soy, in particular, are biofuel feedstocks that are associated with high deforestation risk. The report analyses biofuel policies in all key markets and assesses the impact on demand for palm oil and soy-based biofuels in the coming decade. The conclusions of the report are alarming.
- Current ambitions for the use of biofuels is likely to lead to a massive increase in demand for palm oil and soy by 2030. Total demand for palm oil may increase by 61 mill tons, equal to 90% of current palm oil production, and demand for soy oil may increase by 41 million tons, almost 75% of current production. (high demand scenario)
- This increase would cause an estimated 7 million hectares of deforestation, including up to 3.6 mill ha of peat drainage.
- Global CO2 emissions from this additional deforestation are estimated to be 11.5 billion tons – more than China’s current annual emissions from burning fossil fuels.
- The aviation industry is potentially the largest consumer of high deforestation risk biofuels, followed by Indonesia and Brazil.
The world is in a dual ecological crisis of climate change and biodiversity loss. Tropical deforestation and peat destruction are major contributors to these crises, resulting in carbon dioxide emissions from lost vegetation and disturbed soils and driving the massive extinction of species. The global biofuel industry stands at the nexus between these climate change and biodiversity crises and are therefore in a prime position to affect meaningful change.
“Current biofuel policies around the world may lead to massive deforestation and increased greenhouse gas emissions. Policy makers and industries around the world must halt the use of high-deforestation risk feedstock for biofuels, like palm oil and soy, to ensure that biofuel policies don’t have adverse impact on the climate and increase rainforest destruction,” says Nils Hermann Ranum, head of Rainforest Foundation Norway’s Drivers of Deforestation Program.
“Biofuels were supposed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but this is not what’s happening in reality. If decision makers don’t avoid crop biofuels and especially high-risk feedstock like palm oil and soy, biofuel policies risk adding fuel to the current forest fires around the world,” says Laura Buffet, energy director of Transport & Environment, Europe’s leading NGO campaigning for cleaner transport.
Increased production of palm oil and soy has led to massive deforestation in Southeast Asia and South America, and the report reveals that biofuels are currently by far the major driver of demand for vegetable oils.
- Biofuels accounted for 90% of vegetable oil demand increase since 2015.
- Palm oil (incl. PFAD) and soy are the two vegetable oils with the highest deforestation risk and are unsuitable as biofuel feedstocks.
“Biofuels based on palm oil and soy are expected to cause higher GHG emissions than fossil diesel. Increased production of palm oil and soy oil has resulted in massive tropical deforestation over the last two decades. The EU and the US have introduced measures to avoid palm oil-based biofuels due to high deforestation risk, but globally demand for high deforestation risk biofuels is still increasing. That has to change, and fast”, says the author of the report, renowned biofuels expert Dr. Chris Malins.
For further comments, contact:
- Head of RFN’s Drivers of Deforestation Program, Nils Hermann Ranum, by email (email@example.com) or phone (+47 99 00 10 32); or
- The author of the report, Dr. Chris Malins, via firstname.lastname@example.org or phone, +44 (0)7905 051 671
The report says:
Deforestation and peat loss on this scale have a CO2 cost. As shown in Figure 2, the high palm oil demand scenario could lead to 9.1 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions from land use change, with the high soy oil scenario leading to 2.6 billion tonnes. Combined, this is equivalent to about a year of China’s total emissions from burning fossil fuels.2 This value represents land use change emissions only, and would be partly offset by displacement of fossil fuel use by biofuels.
1) Emissions from removal of tree cover plus twenty years of degradation of peat soils. Peat degradation can continue for decades, resulting in further
ongoing emissions not counted here.
Aside from the carbon cost of ill-conceived biofuel policies, ongoing agricultural expansion
is the main cause of human-led biodiversity destruction and fuels land conflicts with local communities, often indigenous peoples.
We recommend that:
Palm oil, soy oil and PFAD are unsuitable as biofuel feedstocks due to their link to deforestation and biodiversity loss. Consumption should be phased out as soon as possible.
EU Member States should adopt policies to rapidly phase out support for high ILUC-risk biofuels.
The European Commission should lower the level at which the threshold for “significant expansion into land with high carbon stock” is set.
In Europe, the use of biodiesel other than that produced from approved waste or by-product feedstocks should be reduced.
Member States should take measures to favour lower-ILUC biofuels and reduce incentives for the use of soy oil biofuels.
See also earlier:
Major Italian oil company fined €5 million for adverts greenwashing diesel made from palm oil
Italian oil giant Eni has been fined €5 million over its greenwashing of palm-oil based diesel as ‘green’. It ran a major marketing campaign to con consumers into mistakenly believing its ‘Eni Diesel+’ had a positive impact on the environment. T&E and an Italian environmental organisation had complained about the adverts. The ruling and fine deliver a blow to attempts by fossil fuel companies to portray biofuels to politicians as a way to decarbonise transport. In practice, diesel made from any sort of food crop causes deforestation due to indirect land use change (ILUC) impacts. Use of palm oil drives destruction of rainforests and wildlife, and EC data shows biodiesel from palm oil is 3 times worse for the climate than regular diesel when ILUC is accounted for. In March 2019 the EU ruled that the use of palm oil in diesel will be gradually reduced from 2023 and should reach zero in 2030, with some exemptions. But palm oil producing countries like Malaysia and Indonesia are pushing hard for palm oil to be used to produce jet fuel, with the pretence that it is lower carbon than conventional fuel.
Badly thought-through aviation carbon targets, involving biofuels, risk massive deforestation to grow palmoil and soya
A new report shows that the aviation industry’s attempts to cut its carbon emissions (caused by encouraging more and more people to take more flights….) are likely to lead to a dramatic increase in demand for palm oil and soy for aviation biofuels. They suggest the amount of tropical forest that would be taken for this could be 3.2 million hectares – an area larger than Belgium. The aviation industry hopes to be able to use as much alternative fuel as possible, and hopes this will be classed as lower carbon than conventional kerosene jet fuel. These hopes are unrealistic. To try to prevent climate destabilisation from worsening, the world needs as much forest as possible left standing, intact and health. The last thing we need is forest being cut down, in order to produce fuel for planes – largely for hedonistic leisure travel. It makes no sense to destroy so much forest, and its biodiversity, for such an inessential reason. The report says the only technology currently operating at a commercial scale to make bio-jet fuel is the ‘HEFA’ (Hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids) process using vegetable oils and animal fats. The cheapest and most readily available feedstocks for HEFA jet fuel are palm oil and soy oil, which are closely linked to tropical deforestation – not to mention competition for land for human food.