Soya and palm oil will be banned from biofuel production in Belgium in a bid to halt deforestation, The Brussels Times reported a government minister as saying on 13 April.

Belgium had notified the European Commission on 22 March of its intention to ban biofuel made from palm oil and soyabean oil, the Western Producer wrote. France was the first EU country to ban palm oil biodiesel on 1 January 2020, according to the newspaper.

The Federal Minister for Environment and Climate Zakia Khattabi said that following the examples of Denmark, France and the Netherlands, biofuels made from palm oil would no longer be allowed on either the Belgian market or in the transport sector from 2022, The Brussels Times wrote. Soyabean oil would also be banned as a raw material for transport fuels from 2023.

“These fuels, apart from having little or no advantage over conventional fossil fuels from a climate point of view, lead to deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and even human rights violations,” Khattabi was quoted as saying.

Between 2019 and 2020, the use of palm biodiesel had increased ten-fold on the Belgian market to 231M litres, according to the minister, adding that biodiesel producers would have to move towards other-generation biofuels from 2022.

“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,” she added.

The move was the first measure taken by Belgium since joining the Amsterdam Declarations Partnership – an agreement aimed at eliminating deforestation in relation to agricultural commodities by 2025 – Khattabi said.

Under the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive II, the use of high risk indirect land use change (ILUC) biofuels must be capped at 2019 levels until 2023, and then phased out by 2030.