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Volume 449: debated on Monday 24 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps his Department is taking to prevent the habitat of the orang-utan being destroyed in (a) Malaysia, (b) Indonesia and (c) other countries by the increased use of palm oil. (83595)

The Government are very conscious that increasing consumption of goods and services in the UK can have environmental and social consequences overseas. DEFRA is commissioning research on the environmental impacts of internationally sourced commodity production, and palm oil is one of the commodities being investigated. The results of the research will inform future policy development in the UK and abroad.

We are also working hard in a number of areas to tackle the important issue of natural habitat loss that might affect the orang-utan.

For example, the UK Government have been the major financial supporter of the Great Apes Survival Project (GRASP) run by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Educational, Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). More information is available at:

In October 2005, EU Agriculture Ministers finalised new legislation on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) that will allow the EU to enter into agreements with developing countries to provide them with assistance to tackle illegal logging.

The Government are also seeking to address concerns regarding the use of palm oil for transport bio-fuel production. We are proposing to develop a carbon and sustainability assurance scheme to ensure that the best transport bio-fuels are used in the UK. The Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership is looking to define the principal environmental criteria required to protect sensitive eco-systems and will prepare a draft environmental standard to apply to all fuels, including imports.