European Union and French Presidency seek to push forward with destructive and unsustainable biofuel target

02 December 2008

Press release from Biofuel Watch, Corporate Europe Observatory, Econexus, Grupo de Reflexión Rural, Rettet den Regenwald and Watch Indonesia!

palm oil seedling

Young palm oil seedling in a burned peat swamp forest landscape in Riau, Indonesia.

Photo: © Marcel Silvius, Wetlands International

Campaigners today (Tuesday) accused the French Presidency and the European Union of pushing ahead with dangerous and unsustainable agrofuel targets, with a view to reaching a deal on the Renewable Energy Directive on Wednesday. The target as proposed (1) would greatly increase the use of agrofuels (biofuels from crops and trees) in Europe, with no credible protection for food supplies, climate, people and the environment. Campaigners are alarmed that current proposals which have been put forward by the Commission and the Presidency not only endorse a 10% biofuel target by 2020, but even remove the possibility of a reviewing this in 2014. The proposals seek to further manipulate greenhouse gas balances of agrofuels by omitting any references at all to the major carbon emissions caused by indirect land use change. As recent peer-reviewed studies have shown, once indirect land use change is taken into account, virtually all agrofuels are worse for the climate than the fossil fuels they replace (2). The proposal comes shortly after organisations sent an Open Letter to all MEPs in which they warned that eight governments of major agrofuel producer countries had made it clear that they do not accept proposed EU sustainability standards and that even the most basic sustainability „guarantees“ could clearly not be met (3). Amaranta Herrero, agrofuel campaigner at Corporate Europe Observatory, said: * A 10% target regardless of impacts would be a disaster for millions of people, exacerbating world hunger and causing untold environmental damage. Demand for agrofuels is already pushing small farmers off their land, affecting food production and aggravating environmental pollution, causing the destruction of natural ecosystems which are essential carbon sinks, including rainforests and peat swamps. The proposals will send signals to the agrofuel developers to expand, whatever the human and environmental cost.? Guadalupe Rodriguez of Rettet den Regenwald added: * The EU must not ignore calls by hundreds of civil society groups, social movements, politicians and academics for an immediate moratorium on monoculture agrofuels in order to protect climate, people and the environment?. The Brazilian government is already calling for forests with less than 30% canopy cover to be converted for agrofuels – which would lead to a rapid increase in rates of deforestation (4). Half of the world?s forests currently have canopy cover of less than 20% – and so would be eligible for conversion. Campaigners are calling for the target to be dropped and warn that a deal will lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions as more and more forest and pasture land are converted to make way for displaced farmers. The consequences will be disastrous for indigenous people, local communities, and for climate change – as carbon stored in forests and soils is released, campaigners said.


Amaranta Herrero + 32 (0)494220056 (Belgium) Almuth Ernsting +44- (0)1224-324797 (UK) Guadalupe Rodríguez +49 (0)30- 51736879 (Germany)


(1) The French presidency is proposing to exclude the possibility of a review of the 2020 biofuel target in 2014, and not to include any emissions from indirect land use change into greenhouse gas calculations from biofuels into the Renewable Energy Directive. (2) Peer-reviewed studies by Timothy Searchinger, Joseph Fargione, Holly Gibbs and others show that the carbon emissions linked to direct and indirect land use change for agrofuels can be so high that, in some cases it would take many centuries of agrofuel use to repay that carbon debt. See for comments by one of the lead authors, Joseph Fargione. (3) (4) Dossier interinstitutionnel: 2008/0016 (COD). Article 15, para. 4 (page 121). 25th November 2008

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