Two-thirds of palm oil consumed in the EU was burned as energy last year, according to the European Federation for Transport and Environment (T&E).
T&E reported on 26 June that 53% of palm oil was used to make biodiesel for cars and trucks, while 12% was used to generate electricity and heating.
Palm oil used in biodiesel grew in 2018 by 3% while its use in food and animal feed dropped by 11%.
Energy director of T&E Laura Buffet said: “This is a decade-long trend that gets worse every year. It patently shows that the imported deforestation from consuming palm oil in Europe is mainly driven by the biofuels policy.”
Figures from industrial analyst Oil World showed that the EU used over 4M tonnes of crude palm oil to make biodiesel in European biorefineries in 2018. But the bloc imported an additional 1.2M tonnes of refined palm oil biodiesel, T&E said.
Imports of refined biodiesel tripled from 2017 to 2018 after the lifting of anti-dumping duties on Indonesian palm oil and Argentine soya biodiesel – with palm and soya accounting for around 86% of all biodiesel imports.
The EU spent €4.2bn (US$4.7bn) in 2018 on soya and palm imports.
However, under the EU's new Renewable Energy Directive II, first generation biofuels would be phased out starting from this year until 2030.
A delegated act determining high indirect land use change (ILUC)-risk feedstocks, to supplement RED II, also classified palm oil from large plantations as a high ILUC risk feedstock that should be capped at its 2019 level of consumption.
Buffet said: “National ministers need to stop the madness of burning food in cars and trucks. All vegetable oils have a substitution link with palm oil and, therefore, are indirectly associated with rainforest destruction. We urge EU governments to, at the very least, phase out palm oil and all vegetable oil based biofuels starting in 2021.”