SP demands payment of compensation for environmental damage caused by palm oil

21 December 2006

SP demands payment of compensation for environmental damage caused by palm oil

The government must find a suitable means of compensating for the environmental damage caused by Dutch imports of palm oil, according to a motion passed yesterday by Parliament. The motion was brought forward by SP Member of Parliament and environment spokeswoman Krista van Velzen.

In 1998 palm oil was regarded as a sustainable energy source. Eight years later, Secretary of State for the Environment Pieter Van Geel has come to the conclusion that palm oil is in fact not sustainable. Air pollution resulting from its cultivation has turned out to be far greater than expected while damage to primeval forests and the general environment is enormous.

Krista van VelzenThe Netherlands must look into its role as the biggest buyer of palm oil. “The Netherlands is complicit in this huge environmental disaster and the government must do something to compensate," Ms Van Velzen says. With the support of a large majority she is calling on the government to ensure that money is provided for the sustainable management of peat forests in Borneo, to prevent illegal logging and stimulate the local economy.

The government has provided €700m for the building of electricity generators and promote the import of this supposedly sustainable palm oil from the Kalimantan region of Borneo. Our country is by far the biggest customer for this oil, taking some 95% of production. Large areas of primeval forest have been logged to make room for this production. Peat bogs thus left fallow dry out and are susceptible to fire in the summer season. These fires are responsible for an astonishing 20% of the world's emissions of CO2. In addition, resulting smoke is extremely damaging to health.

“The results are so unbearable that our development minister, Agnes Van Ardenne, was even forced to cancel a working visit as a result of the smoke," Van Velzen says. “It's time that we took a long hard look at the definition of clean and sustainable energy. Sustainable energy must not only be good from a climate point of view but must also have no negative side-effects for air quality, nature or people's living conditions."

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