By Sumatran Orangutan Society
Jan 31, 2013
One of the main causes of deforestation in Indonesia, and the greatest threat to orangutans in the wild, is the conversion of forests to oil palm plantations. As more and more forests fall, other critically endangered species, including Sumatran elephants, tigers and rhinos, are also put at risk.
Such 'development' is usually followed by increased levels of hunting, poaching, human-wildlife conflict, illegal logging, forest fires, and human rights abuses. Tropical forests are crucial carbon sinks, so losing these habitats would be catastrophic in terms of the global fight to prevent dangerous climate change.
Yet, shockingly, the UK government is offering subsidies to power stations to burn biofuels - including palm oil - to generate electricity. And what's more, this is being funded through our fuel bills!
These subsidies, called Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs) are the government's way of supporting renewable energy technologies, as part of plans to reduce the country's greenhouse gas emissions. Nobody would deny that we need more investment in renewables, but, as well as supporting clean technologies such as wind farms, ROCs also finance electricity generation from the burning of bioliquids such as palm oil.
On top of the threat that this increase in demand for palm oil poses to tropical forests and biodiversity, burning palm oil as a fuel has been shown to actually lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions!
Bioliquids - what is the Government proposing?
The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is proposing to support the burning of up to 500,000 of bioliquids per year. <strong>A large proportion of this would be palm oil</strong>, as it is by far the cheapest vegetable oil. This target equates to 110,000 hectares of oil palm plantations, and could result in the doubling of the amount of palm oil imported into the UK each year. Simply asking DECC to exclude palm oil from the subsidies isn't an option due to rules imposed by the EU's Renewable Energy Directive.
What about ‘good' bioliquids?
Used cooking oil can also be classified as a bioliquid, and is eligible for the same subsidies as palm oil. It is considered to be the most 'climate friendly' biofuel, but is already in very short supply and in high demand, for example for transport. The volumes available could only meet a tiny proportion of our energy needs.
Since the government can't differentiate between ‘good' bioliquids and those that are worse for the climate than the fossil fuels they are replacing, then no subsidies should be offered for any bioliquids.
What To Do
The subsidies will be made available from April 2013 - but the government is putting the finishing touches to their plans in February. We only have a matter of weeks to convince DECC to revise the proposals.
1) Please sign the petition to UK Energy Minister John Hayes, asking him to scrap subsidies for burning bioliquids, including palm oil, in power stations.
2) Please write to your MP and ask them to raise this issue as a matter of urgency with John Hayes and Energy Secretary Ed Davey. Please follow the instructions below to contact your MP:
You can find out who your MP is here
To contact them by Email: Go to their website, which will provide their email address.
To contact them by Letter: Send a letter to your MP at House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA
You can use this Template letter. Please personalise the letter if you have time, as this will have more impact.
We have prepared a Parliamentary Briefing which you can download and send to your MP, outlining exactly what our objections are to the government's proposals, and what they can do: Bioliquids and the Renewables Obligation Parliamentary Briefing
Always include your own postal address when contacting your MP (even by email), so that they know you are one of their constituents - otherwise you may not receive a reply.
3) Please share this campaign - we need as many people as possible to let the government know that we do not want our fuel bills to subsidise deforestation.