Members of the European Parliament (MEP) voted on 4 April in favour of a report calling for a single certification scheme for palm oil entering the EU and the phase-out of unsustainable vegetable oils in biofuel production.

With the move, the Parliament aims to counter the impact of unsustainable palm oil production, such as deforestation and habitat loss.

“We want an open debate with all players so we can make palm oil production sustainable without cutting down forests and in compliance with dignified human rights conditions,” said Parliament rapporteur Kateřina Konečná, who drafted the resolution.

“This is Parliament’s first resolution on this issue and it is up to the Commission how it acts upon it. But we cannot ignore the problem of deforestation, which threatens the Global Agreement on Climate Change and UN Sustainable Development Goals,” she added.

During the voting, the MEPs noted that various voluntary certification schemes, such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), promote sustainable cultivation of palm oil, but claimed that their standards were open to criticism and confusing for consumers.

As such, they called for the European Commission to install a single certification scheme that would guarantee that only sustainably produced palm oil entered the European marketplace, along with introducing sustainability criteria for palm oil and products containing palm oil.

MEPs noted that 46% of the palm oil imported to the EU was used to produce biofuels, and therefore called for a phase-out of deforestation-contributing vegetable oils in biofuels by 2020.

Additionally, the MEPs stated that a “large part” of the global palm oil industry was violating “fundamental human rights and adequate social standards” by using child labour and driving conflicts between local and indigenous groups and palm oil concession holders.

The report previously passed a vote at the EU Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety on 11 March.