Palm oil boycott backfired on EU, says environmentalist

A British environmentalist says an EU boycott led to exports from other countries with a worse record.

KUALA LUMPUR: The European Union’s efforts to boycott palm oil from Malaysia and Indonesia has backfired, leading to greater deforestation in other countries instead, says a British Islamic environmentalist, Fazlun Khalid.

In an EU policy opinion column, Fazlun said the EU had conceded that its previous approach to stopping deforestation due to palm oil was unlikely to work, according to Bernama.

He said an EU paper had concluded that it was more effective and less costly if Malaysia and Indonesia implemented a moratorium on deforestation.

“This is because a palm oil boycott tends to simply switch demand to less efficient vegetable oils which use up more land, potentially driving greater rates of deforestation,” said Fazlun.

Fazlun Khalid

Fazlun, who is the founder of an Islamic environmental group, said the EU boycott also signalled producer countries that adopting sustainable production methods would be pointless since European countries did not want to buy their palm oil.

A recent report by the EU’s agricultural committee has warned that only mandatory, legally enforceable environmental standards could stop deforestation but cannot be imposed unilaterally and require buy-in from producer nations.

“Working in partnership with the Global South will mean adopting an aggressive ‘stick and carrot’ approach to trade deals,” he said. “Nations that meet environmental standards can be put on track for free-trade agreements. Those that refuse to do so would fall outside the negotiating table. That would be a huge step in spurring a global green economic revolution.”

He said Malaysia’s Sustainable Palm Oil scheme was working, in contrast to the Amazon where deforestation is accelerating. Meanwhile, Malaysia’s deforestation rate had slowed down for three consecutive years,. he said.

Fazlun said the EU should find ways to work more closely with developing nations to support and not alienate nationally-mandated conservation efforts.

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