Offener Brief

Open letter to European Commission Biomass Action Plan and the European Biofuel Directive

Berlin, January 3, 2007

Dear Madam, dear Sir,

on January 10th, 2007, the European Commission is going to make an announcement about the review of the Biomass Action Plan and the European Biofuel Directive.

In December 2006, the European Parliament recognized that the lack of clear environmental standards and safeguards could have significant negative effects, such as an increase in tropical deforestation, agriculture intensification and biodiversity losses in Europe and abroad, while failing to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

For producer countries like Indonesia, Europe’s growing biodiesel means conversion of huge areas of the remaining tropical rainforests into large scale oil palm plantations. Friends of the Earth Indonesia has identified the growing demand for palm oil as one of the two key threats to the rainforests. Until today, oil palm plantations have caused 10 million hectares of deforestation in Malaysia and Indonesia alone. Furthermore, research by Wetlands International, Delft Hydraulics and Alterra has shown that palm oil production and use from South-East Asian peatlands results in carbon emissions ten times greater than those resulting from using an equivalent quantity of mineral oil.

Indonesian groups are appealing to Europe: “Don’t make your problems our problem”, because land for oil palm plantations competes with land for forests and food. Furthermore, the expansion of plantations often involves human rights abuses and violence. Like groups in Latin America and Southern Africa, Indonesian groups point out that the expansion of oil palm plantations for export is a threat to people’s rights and livelihoods. We are very concerned that the European Commission has not consulted with NGOs and community organisations, which represent the people who will be directly affected by the greater demand for palm oil, soya, sugar cane or jatropha. In the light of all these developments we call on you not to endorse plans for an expansion of Europe’s biofuel industry at this stage.

Finally, we are very worried about reports that the European Parliament has recommended that peat should be classed as a long-term renewable source of bioenergy. The International Panel on Climate Change clearly states in its guidelines that peat should not be classed as either renewable or as a form of bioenergy. Its carbon content is as high as or higher than that of other types of fossil fuels, and it is not renewable on a human time scale.

Those are very serious issues, which cannot be resolved between now and January 10th. We therefore call on you to take more time and not to issue a binding policy declaration right away.

In the longer term, we believe that the following measures are needed to avoid serious negative impacts from biofuel production:

- a moratorium on targets and obligations until a sustainable sourcing of biofuel can be guaranteed;

- full consultation with local communities and NGOs in the producing countries;

- taking all possible measures to stop imports of biofuel feedstocks for bioenergy where crop production is linked to deforestation, peat drainage, biodiversity loss, pollution or human rights abuses;

- ensuring that peat is classed as a fossil fuel, not as bioenergy; amending Directive 2003/96/EC, which excludes peat from those hydrocarbons, which have to be taxed for energy production. Thank you very much for your kind attention.

 

Yours sincerely,

Marianne Klute
Petra Stockmann

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