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Rainforests and Orangutans Sacrificed

Press Release
For Immediate Release

Orangutan Conservation Groups Warn MEPs Not to Sacrifice Rainforests and Orangutans For Biofuels

Joint press release by the Ape Alliance, Sumatran Orangutan Society, Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, Orangutan Foundation UK, Born Free Foundation, Cockroach Productions, Enoughsenough and Biofuelwatch

On Monday 11th December, the European Parliament will debate the future of the European Biofuel Directive. The Directive was introduced in 2003 to support renewable and climate-friendly technology. Contrary to those aims, it has provided an incentive for large-scale rainforest destruction in Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as a number of countries in South America and Africa. Palm oil, soy and sugar cane are the most profitable crops for biofuels but new plantations to meet rising demand are frequently created at the expense of rainforests, other biodiverse habitats, and local communities.

Many of the fires raging across Borneo’s forests and peat swamps are believed to have been lit in order to clear land for oil palm plantations. Orangutans who escape the flames are routinely killed on those plantations. Indonesia’s Environment Minister, Rachmat Witoelar, struggling to deal with the fires said this week, "There's 18.2 million hectares (44.97 million acres) readily available for them to plant without cutting down trees ... plantations are welcome but they're are not welcome to cut down trees."

Nevertheless, trees are still being cut down because conversion of forests to palm-oil is more profitable than planting on degraded land. This is because sales of the timber from forest clearance subsidise the plantation costs.

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“Fieldworkers fear that at least 1,000 orangutans died in fires across Borneo this year – many of them lit to clear land for new palm oil plantations,” said Ian Redmond, Chairman of the Ape Alliance. “This could be a disastrous directive for orangutans. It would be irresponsible of Europe to step up demand for biofuels without a strict certification scheme in place. We need truly renewable and clean energy – not fuels linked to deforestation and eradication of endangered species.”

The vote coincides with a new postcard campaign launched by the eight organisations, which calls on MPs and MEPs to push for environmental and social safeguards in our biofuel market.

The annual peat and forest fires in South-east Asia, closely linked to forest clearance for palm oil production, release up to 1 billion tonnes of carbon a year - 3-5 times as much as the entire Kyoto Protocol is supposed to save from 1990 levels. The Amazon forest, meanwhile, is threatened by soy plantations, which are also expanding to meet biofuel demand. Logging reduces the amount of rainfall in the region and pushes up local temperatures, and scientists fear that this could lead to a collapse of the entire Amazon ecosystem. If this was to happen, it would release enough carbon to raise global temperatures by another 1.5 – 3 degrees C.

The eight organisations are calling on MEPs to vote for a moratorium on targets and obligations until it can be guaranteed that all our biofuels come from sustainable, non-destructive sources. They also call for import bans on those biofuels which are linked to rainforest destruction, other serious environmental harm, or human rights abuses.


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