Belgium Challenges EU Commitment to Climate Change
- Belgium, one of the founding members of the European Union claims to strongly support an open economy and use the powers of EU institutions to integrate member economies. This is becoming a problem for the EU’s ambitions to lead the global fight against climate change.
- In the postwar period, Belgium was a leader in European unification, as a founding member of what is now the European Union. Brussels has since become host to the headquarters of NATO and is the de facto capital of the European Union.
- In the global war against climate change, Belgium appears to have chosen to be missing in action as the Kingdom fudges its commitment to the European Union’s ambition to lead the global fight.
As a backgrounder, the Federal Minister for Environment and Climate, Belgium, Zakia Khattabi, announced bombastically last month that Belgium will ban the use of soy and palm oil for biofuels “in order to eliminate deforestation.”
Minister Khattabi may have her head stuck in colonial days when Belgium controlled its colonies with a lethal hand. As a Kingdom whose influence has been greatly reduced, the ban of soy and palm oil for Belgians is nothing more than a sideshow to distract attention away from its failure to commit to global sustainability.
This failure was reported by the Brussels Times when the European Commission issued a damning verdict on the climate and energy report for 2021-2030 submitted by the Belgian government.
“The reports from the 27 member states are intended to allow the Commission to draw up the Union’s plans for the coming ten years, to set its goals for 2030 and to achieve the goal of becoming climate-neutral by 2050.
The evaluation of Belgium’s report starts off with a slap on the wrist for the shortage of completed homework.
Belgium’s final integrated national energy and climate plan (NECP) is difficult to analyse as it does not follow the template provided in the Regulation on the Governance of the Energy Union and Climate Action,” the document says in its opening paragraph.”
The evaluation went on to criticize the Belgian report item by item.
“So, the renewable energy contribution of 17% by 2030 is described as ‘unambitious’. Belgium’s contribution to energy efficiency targets is ‘of low ambition’. The report ‘does not set quantified objectives for energy security.
Regarding the internal energy market, the final plan lacks specific policy objectives and measures,” the report goes on.
Somehow, despite its befuddled approach towards fighting climate change, Belgium was able to utter that:
“To produce the quantity of biodiesel for the Belgian market, palm oil plantations are needed with a total area of more than 100,000 football pitches. We know from studies that at least half of these palm oil plantations are planted on land that has been deforested in the recent past,”
This is sheer and absolute nonsense as biofuels derived from palm oil have been certified by the EU-based ISCC to be deforestation free.
If Minister Khatabbi doubted the quality of work by the ISCC, she should have taken it up with the certification body prior to this attempt to hide Belgium’s failure to address climate change. Palm oil maybe a woke topic for pop media but using it to hide climate policy failure will not work.
Minister Khattabi appears to be poorly informed as she suggested that Belgian “biodiesel producers will have to evolve towards other-generation biofuels.”
We assume that Minister Khattabi was referring to second generation biofuels like Used Cooking Oils (UCO). Unfortunately for the minister, recent reports have indicated that UCOs could have a darker history than first generation biofuels.
The report from T&E focused on the presence of palm oil in UCO but T&E failed to notice that China, as the biggest supplier of UCO to the EU, imports ten times more soy from Brazil than it does from all of Southeast Asia. This simply means that UCO from China is ten times more likely to contain Amazonian deforestation than Southeast Asian deforestation.
Other reports including this one from the NNFCC in the UK presented other troubling scenarios from unintended consequences due to an increase in demand for UCOs.
As for Minister Khattabi’s claim that Belgium is following the examples of Denmark, France and Netherlands, we have not been able to find evidence that the Netherlands has banned palm oil in biofuels. If anything, the Netherlands had shown strong opposition against any EU bans on palm oil as a feedstock for biofuels.
As for the Minister’s claim that Belgium will focus on electric and rail transport, this claim and the lack of details to support its viability shows that the government continues to be clueless about how it plans to reduce emissions for the country.
EU Industries in Support of Biofuels
On the other hand, the bioenergy sector in the EU has strongly argued that bioenergy is needed, at least as a transitional source of energy as the Union tries to break off its dependence on fossil fuels.
Minister Khattabi would be well advised to read “The not-so-secret solution to decarbonising EU transport.”
According to The EU Biofuels Chain coalition which represents Europe’s farming, sugar, maize, cereals, oilseeds and vegetable oil production, renewable ethanol and biodiesel sector:
“Hitting the new higher targets proposed by the Commission is a major challenge. In fact, while the EU has made overall progress in renewables incorporation and emissions reduction, the picture in the transport sector is dire; fossil fuels still account for 94% of transport energy, and transport emissions are 19% higher than 1990 levels.”
Another statement from COCERAL, FEDIOL and FEFAC, which represent EU grains and oilseed trade, crushing of oilseeds, refining of vegetable oils and manufacturing of compound feed stated emphatically that:
“Stigmatising and discriminating a specific commodity or origin has not shown so far to be effective for reducing deforestation.”
Palm oil producing countries as represented by the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC) also identified the problems faced by EU members in meeting climate change commitments.
In a new press release which addressed Belgium’s proposal to ban palm oil from biofuels, CPOPC urged understanding that palm oil was and continues to be an important crop for the sustainable development of tropical countries.
The press release touched on possible trade measures against Belgium, especially in Belgian agricultural exports to Indonesia. The dollar values of the Belgian-Southeast Asian trade is nominal but the greater consequence of EU member state actions against palm oil in biofuels threatens the continued loss of the EU’s influence in Southeast Asia, especially in saving forests.
Published June 2021. CSPO Watch