The European Commission and some EU member states hope to redefine palm oil plantations as "forests," according to a leaked document from the EU executive.
Rules governing the use of biofuels were supposed to be designed to sort out the sustainable versions of the technology from their dirtier cousins following a massive backlash against it in 2008. At the time, an avalanche of reports revealed that many forms of the fuel source both increase greenhouse gas emissions and put pressure on food prices.
The production of palm oil was one of the most egregious examples of the problem.
In the wake of the biofuels boom, there has been a rush to chop down rainforests to make way for palm oil plantations. The UN says that the growth in such plantations is now the main cause of rainforest destruction in Malaysia and Indonesia.
Worse still are the land grabs and human rights abuses resulting from the lucrative business. In Indonesia, as EUobserver reported two years ago, when native communities complain about the loss of their lands, private security firms and police that collude with the oil companies crack down violently on protesters.
But in a manoeuvre that has shocked environmental campaigners, a draft commission communication offering guidance to EU member states on the use of biofuels has classified palm oil plantations - the source of one of the most destructive forms of biofuels - as "forests."
Essentially, the document argues that because palm oil plantations are tall enough and shady enough, they count as forests.
"Continuously forested areas are defined as areas where trees have reached, or can reach, at least heights ......
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