Stricter EU rules on biofuels must foster food security, not European industry interests – CIDSE

Stricter EU rules on biofuels must foster food security, not European industry interests

Stricter EU rules on biofuels must foster food security, not European industry interests, says CIDSE

CIDSE news release – for immediate release, 16 October 2012

(Brussels, 16/10/2012) On Wednesday (17 October), the European Commission (EC) is expected to present stricter rules for biofuels to increase their sustainability. Commissioner Oettinger and Commissioner Hedegaard announced that the new rules would reduce the use of food-based biofuels and calculate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions related to indirect land-use change (ILUC), a welcome step according to CIDSE. However, the international alliance of Catholic development agencies warns that the new rules should not be weakened to please European industry interests, but strengthened to protect millions of the world’s poorest people affected by biofuel production.

We encourage the European Commission to phase out food-based biofuels, which cause volatile food prices, land grabbing and which fail to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions. A biofuel policy which does not tackle climate change and which takes food out of people’s mouths is unworthy of a leading development and climate actor as the European Union. The EU’s sustainability criteria need a fundamental redesign, to require businesses to meet a high standard when it comes to social, not only environmental, impacts of biofuel production,” said CIDSE EU Policy Officer Denise Auclair.

In a letter sent to President Barroso, CIDSE urged the Commission to add force to the new biofuel rules, not water them down. As EU’s current biofuel policy directly affects the food security of millions of people, it is at odds with the EU’s legal obligation to make policies coherent with development objectives.

The 5% cap on food-based biofuels proposed by the Commission is a bare minimum and to eliminate impacts on food prices and hunger their use should be reduced further. Also, EU biofuel policy should under no circumstance encourage land use change. As a climate champion, the EC should accurately account for GHG emissions from indirect land-use change, in both the Fuel-Quality Directive and the Renewable Energy Directive.     

CIDSE partner Rahmawati Retno Winarni, a palm oil expert from Indonesia, discusses the impacts of EU biofuel policy with experts from EU institutions, NGOs, and business at the 2012 European Development Days (EDDs, Brussels, 16 and 17 October).

The Programme Director of Sawit Watch, a leading civil society organisation monitoring palm production warns EU policy makers. The palm oil boom which fuels rising global demand, including from the EU, harms indigenous people in her country:

“Palm oil is far from a sustainable solution for indigenous people in Indonesia. They lose their land and forest resources, drink polluted water, are treated unequally for their work on the plantations and if they protest they face violence. As Indonesian biofuels also fuel Europe’s thirst for energy I believe EU policy makers should be aware of how the palm oil boom harms people and their environment,” Winarni said.

Indonesian biodiesel export increased from 563 million liters in 2010 to 1,225 million liters in 2011. Europe has become a single largest market for Indonesia; 39 percent of total European biodiesel import in 2011 came from Indonesia, up from 9 percent in 2008.*

CIDSE Media and Comunication Officer Roeland Scholtalbers
scholtalbers(at), +32(0)477068384, +32(0)2 282 40 73

Notes to the editors:

EU Dev Days debate: Promoting biofuels, creating scarcity?, Wed, 17/10/2012 – 14:00 – 15:30, Tour & Taxis, Auditorium D.

The European Commission admitted this September that it needs to rethink its biofuels policy, a crucial element of its 2020 renewable energy targets. This follows a weight of calls from NGOs, business leaders and researchers recently to shelve biofuels targets altogether. Plant based biofuels are becoming an increasingly controversial issue, given their impact on global food prices and on land rights for people in developing countries. The panel will gather experts from EU institutions, NGOs, and the private sector to confront their views.

This event can be followed in live-streaming.

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