Protest against palm oil in Italy

Environmentalists with their protest banners in front of the city hall of Marghera, Italy Joint protest by Earth Riot, Zeroenergy Veneto, Antispecisti Pratesi and Rainforest Rescue (Salviamo la Foresta) in Marghera, Italy (© Earth Riot)

Apr 2, 2014

“Stop palm oil”, “Palm oil destroys rainforests” and “Palm oil is neither organic nor sustainable” were just some of the slogans of the protest organized by Earth Riot, Zero Energy Veneto, Antispecisti Pretesi and Rainforest Rescue (Salviamo la Foresta) in front of the town hall of Marghera, near Venice. It was the first-ever demonstration against palm oil and biodiesel in Italy.

“Here in Italy, we are only just beginning to raise awareness of the devastating environmental and social consequences of palm oil and agrofuel production,” our Italian colleague Elisa Norio explained.

Numerous passers-by stopped to find out more about the reasons for the protest in Marghera’s town hall square. The activists agreed that it was a good opportunity to educate the city’s residents about biofuels and Agip-Eni’s supposedly “green” refinery.

Agip-Eni, an energy company partly owned by the Italian state, is building a huge biodiesel refinery with an annual capacity of 500,000 tons in the harbor of Marghera, a mainland town directly opposite Venice. The refinery is intended to process mainly imported palm oil from Southeast Asia, and an initial shipment of 22,000 tons recently arrived from Indonesia for the plant’s pilot operation. Potential buyers of the palm oil diesel include the Italian and U.S. navies.

To make room for palm oil plantations, rainforests are being slashed and burned, destroying the habitat of highly endangered species such as the orangutan, Sumatran rhinoceros and pygmy elephant. The protesters also expressed their solidarity with the inhabitants of the Indonesian and Malaysian rainforest areas who are being forced off of their ancestral land and robbed of their livelihoods by the palm oil industry. Together, Indonesia and Malaysia produce around 90 percent of the world’s palm oil.

In February, Rainforest Rescue submitted a petition opposing palm oil biodiesel with over 86,000 signatures from all over the world to the Italian government in Rome. The main problem, however, remains the biofuels policy of the European Union. The EU requires that by 2020, ten percent of the energy consumed by the transportation sector must be provided by “renewable energy”.

Further information (in Italian):

- Venezia Today: The Future Has Arrived in Marghera Harbor: the First Ship with Palm Oil

- Corriere del Veneto: Marghera Supplies the US Navy