France is risking the wrath of Indonesia and Malaysia by slapping a new tax on palm oil. EU ‘ignoring human rights in Vietnam’, Palace fights poaching and Brazil cracks down on illegal logging
France taxes palm oil
France is risking the wrath of Indonesia and Malaysia by slapping a new tax on palm oil. In March the French National Assembly approved a levy of €30 per tonne from 2017. Thereafter, the tax will increase each year by €20 until 2020, when it will reach €90. Sustainably produced palm oil is exempt, and the tax is thus being touted as an anti-deforestation measure. French lawmakers also hope it will encourage a switch to more healthy vegetable oils in processed foods. Palm oil producers, wary that other purchasing countries might follow suit, are not impressed. Yusof Basiron, chief executive of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, says the levy will discriminate against farmers who cannot afford sustainability certification. It is time to think of retaliation against France, Basiron says.
EU ‘ignoring human rights in Vietnam’
The European Commission, the European Union's executive, is guilty of maladministration for neglecting human rights in a draft free trade agreement between the EU and Vietnam, the European Ombudsman has found. The commission published the agreement in February and said human rights could be dealt with through dialogue as issues came up. But the ombudsman said the commission should have carried out a human rights impact assessment as a critical preventative tool before it finalised the agreement, and in not doing so had acted against basic EU principles. The International Federation for Human Rights, which took the issue to the ombudsman, said a prior assessment would have influenced the trade negotiations and helped establish minimum standards. The commission is not obliged to take any notice of the ombudsman’s ruling, but the Vietnam deal is subject to the approval of the European Parliament – and many MEPs back the ombudsman's view.
Palace fights poaching
The Duke of Cambridge has used his persuasive powers to encourage a large number of airlines, shipping companies and wildlife organisations to sign the Buckingham Palace Declaration against wildlife trafficking. Coordinated by United for Wildlife, a campaign started by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, the declaration's signatories commit to share information and develop common systems so they can more easily notify authorities if they suspect rare species are being illegally shipped. Participants include the African Airlines Association, Air China Cargo, Dubai Customs World, the International Maritime Organisation, South African Airways and the World Customs Organisation. The Duke said the declaration could be a “game changer,” and that other groups were welcome to join the fight against the poaching crisis.
Brazil cracks down on illegal logging
Brazil hopes that a small change to commercial logging practices could combat illegal logging in the Amazon. In March, the country reduced the standard amount of wood that is commercially recoverable from a tree, after removal of bark, branches and other processing, from 45% to 35% – a level based on technical studies and industry standards. The fear was that logging companies were using the higher number to disguise the inclusion of illegally cut trees in their output figures. By one estimate, the apparently small change could cut the amount of illegally logged wood by 1.3 million cubic metres per year, representing about 10% of the permitted harvest.