Stop a billion-dollar gift to the palm oil industry!

An orangutan Deforestation for plantations is destroying orangutan habitat

Bad news for the rainforest and its inhabitants: Indonesia’s President Widodo is planning a $1.35 billion biofuel subsidy that would dramatically speed up deforestation. Please speak out against this insanity!

Call to action

To: His Excellency Joko Widodo, President of Indonesia

Scrap the plan to subsidize oil palm plantations for the production of biofuels with $1.35 billion.

Read letter

Indonesian activists are sounding the alarm: “The only group that will benefit from this policy are private palm oil companies,” explains Zenzi Suhadi, a campaigner for the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi). “With this biofuel subsidy policy, the government is violating its commitment to saving our environment and supporting local people to independently cultivate their lands.”

Nordin, an activist for our Indonesian partner NGO Save our Borneo notes: “Palm oil is full of corruption, human rights abuses and environmental destruction.”

If the plan receives parliamentary backing and goes into law, palm oil companies are likely to expand their operations, further driving the spiral of increased carbon emissions, climate impact, land grabbing and human rights violations. Tax money that could be invested in social services and environmental protection would be diverted into the pockets of the palm oil bosses.

The producers currently face falling prices and weak demand. The subsidies would stimulate domestic consumption, reducing the palm oil industry’s exposure to the world market. If the legislation goes through, biodiesel would be subsidized at five times the current level.

Ethanol production would also benefit from the new biofuel policy. Ramping up production could result in the destruction of an estimated one million hectares of rainforest.

The plan still needs the approval of Indonesia’s parliament, which is scheduled to study the proposal later this month.

Please sign our petition and help our partners protect the remaining Indonesian rainforest by getting this disastrous legislation scrapped.

Back­ground Letter

To: His Excellency Joko Widodo, President of Indonesia

Your Excellency,

It is with great concern that I have read about your plans to use public funds to subsidize the production of biodiesel and ethanol. Based on Europe’s years of experience with the negative impact of biofuels, I believe that this policy would promote the further spread of industrial monocultures and accelerate the pace of deforestation.

Indonesian environmental and human rights organizations fear that, as in the past, numerous smallholders and indigenous people will be evicted from their ancestral land by the expanding plantations.

In recent years, more than ten million hectares of Indonesian rainforest have been cleared for oil palm plantations. Protecting the profit margins of the palm oil industry with the proposed subsidies would exact an unacceptably high price on the rural population and the environment. Much of the damage would be irreversible.

I therefore call on you to reconsider your proposed policy of subsidizing biofuels. Please do not jeopardize the future of Indonesia and the world for short-term gain. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Topic

The issue – rainforest on our dinner tables and in our fuel tanks

At 66 million tons annually, palm oil is the most commonly produced vegetable oil. Its low world market price and properties that lend themselves to processed foods have led the food industry to use it in half of all supermarket products. Palm oil can be found in frozen pizzas, biscuits and margarine, as well as body creams, soaps, makeup, candles and detergents.

Few people realize that almost half of the palm oil imported into the EU is used as biofuel. Since 2009, the mandatory blending of biofuels into motor vehicle fuels has been a major cause of deforestation.

Oil palm plantations currently cover more than 27 million hectares of the Earth’s surface. Forests and human settlements have been destroyed and replaced by “green deserts” containing virtually no biodiversity on an area the size of New Zealand.

The impact – suffering and death in producer countries, climate havoc

The warm, humid climate of the tropics offers perfect growth conditions for oil palms. Day after day, huge tracts of rainforest in Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa are being bulldozed or torched to make room for more plantations, releasing vast amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. As a consequence, Indonesia – the world’s largest producer of palm oil – temporarily surpassed the United States in terms of greenhouse gas emissions in 2015. With their CO2 and methane emissions, palm oil-based biofuels actually have three times the climate impact of traditional fossil fuels.

Palm oil is not only bad for the climate: As their forest habitat is cleared, endangered species such as the orangutan, Borneo elephant and Sumatran tiger are being pushed closer to extinction. Smallholders and indigenous people who have inhabited and protected the forest for generations are often brutally driven from their land. In Indonesia, more than 700 land conflicts are related to the palm oil industry. Human rights violations are everyday occurrences, even on supposedly “sustainable” and “organic” plantations.

As consumers, we are largely unaware of these broader issues, yet our daily palm oil consumption also impacts our health: refined palm oil contains large amounts of harmful fatty acid esters that are known to damage DNA and cause cancer.

The solution – a revolution on our dinner tables and in our fuel tanks

Only 70,000 orangutans still roam the forests of Southeast Asia, yet the EU’s biofuels policy is pushing them to the brink of extinction. Every new plantation on Borneo is destroying a further piece of their habitat. Stepping up the pressure on policymakers is a must if we want to save our tree-dwelling kin. Apart from that, however, there is still a lot we can do in day-to-day life.

Follow these simple tips to recognize, avoid and combat palm oil:

  1. Enjoy a home-cooked meal: Use your imagination: why not try almond-coconut-pear biscuits? Or pizza with potato and rosemary? A meal cooked from fresh ingredients beats processed foods containing palm oil every time. Oils such as sunflower, olive, rapeseed or flaxseed are ideal for cooking and baking.
  2. Read labels: As of December 2014, labeling regulations in the EU require food products to clearly indicate that they contain palm oil. However, in the case of non-food items such as cosmetics and cleaning products, a wide range of chemical names may still be used to hide the use of palm oil. A quick check of your favorite search engine will turn up palm oil-free alternatives, however.
  3. Remember that the customer is king: Ask your retailers for palm oil-free products. Write product manufacturers and ask them why they aren’t using domestic oils. Companies can be quite sensitive to issues that give their products a bad name, so inquiring with sales staff and contacting manufacturers can make a real difference. Public pressure and increased awareness of the problem have already prompted some producers to stop using palm oil.
  4. Sign petitions and write your elected representatives: Online campaigns put pressure on policymakers responsible for biofuels and palm oil imports. Have you already signed all of Rainforest Rescue’s petitions?
  5. Speak out: Protest marches and creative action on the street raise public and media awareness of the issue, which in turn steps up the pressure on policymakers.
  6. Leave your car at home: Whenever you can, walk, ride a bicycle or use public transport.
  7. Be informed and inform others: Big Business and governments would like us to believe that biofuels are good for the climate and that oil palm plantations are sustainable. Spread the word – share this information with your family and friends and encourage them to rethink their consumption habits. It’s in our hands!
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