By the time you finish reading this article, browse the internet, scroll through Facebook, and grab a snack, up to 300 football fields of forest across Indonesia will have been cleared to make room for palm plantations. Palm oil is a popular, cheap oil that is used in around 50 percent of consumer goods. Because of this rapid deforestation, in the past 10 years, the orangutan population has decreased by 50 percent as the result of habitat loss – to put that in context, there are only around 6,300 Sumatran orangutans left. But this is hardly where the negative impact of palm oil ends. Clearing one hectare (about two square acres) of peat forest can release 6,000 tons of carbon dioxide. All of this destruction is being fueled by our demand for snacks, laundry detergent, cosmetics, and a whole myriad of other cheap products that contain this oil. Given the current state of Indonesia’s rainforests, we simply cannot carry on palm oil production business as usual.
Thankfully, France is leading the fight against palm oil. The National Assembly is placing a new levy on palm oil imports from Indonesia and Malaysia, which would tax 30 euros per ton in 2017, rising to 90 euros per ton in 2020.
Despite protests from the governments of Indonesia and Malaysia, the two largest palm oil producers in the world, France is going ahead with this legislation. However, they’ve softened the tax, which was initially introduced at a whopping 300 euro per ton.
This legislation, which is part of a wider biodiversity bill, still needs to be reviewed by the Upper House, though it is expected to go through in May or June. Barbara Pompili, Junior Minister for the environment in charge of biodiversity, told the National Assembly that “The introduction into France’s fiscal legislation of a tax on products whose impact on deforestation is recognized worldwide, gives a strong signal by France in terms of environmental protection.”
It’s seems like the U.S. could take a hint from France’s progressive actions. Making it more difficult – and expensive – to import unsustainable palm oil will hopefully lead to a dramatic drop in usage and a rise in innovative solutions. The reality is, even if we make smart consumer choices as consumers in regards to our palm oil usage, it is also up to the government to make it more difficult for these products to hit the shelves to begin with. We applaud France for its progressive action, and urge the U.S. to follow suit!
What You Can Do to Help
First, share this article!
Learn how to wean yourself off palm oil.
Look for palm oil alternatives.
Tell the brands you buy to commit to sustainable palm oil.
Image Source: Craig Morey/Flickr