BRUSSELS – Ten years of debate in the European Union over the detrimental effects of the demand for biofuels for transport on food prices, hunger, forest destruction, land consumption and climate change have come to an end.
The European Parliament finally agreed new E.U. laws on Apr. 28 to limit the use of crop-based biofuels, setting a limit on the quantity of biofuels that can be used to meet E.U. energy targets.
“While the EU has not gone far enough to stop the irresponsible use of food crops for car fuel, this new law acknowledges a reality that small-scale food producers worldwide know – that biofuel crops cripple their ability to feed the world, compete for the land that provides their livelihood, and for the water that sustains us.” —Kirtana Chandrasekaran, FOEI
With Europe the world’s biggest user and importer of biodiesel – from crops such as palm oil, soy and rapeseed – the vote is expected to have a major impact around the world, notably in the European Union’s main international supplier countries Indonesia, Malaysia and Argentina. It is likely to signal the end to the expanding use of food crops for transport fuel.
“Let no-one be in doubt,” said Robbie Blake, Friends of the Earth Europe’s biofuels campaigner, “the biofuels bubble has burst. These fuels do more harm than good for people, the environment and the climate. The EU’s long-awaited move to put the brakes on biofuels is a clear signal to the rest of the world that this is a false solution to the climate crisis. This must spark the end of burning food for fuel.”
With the vote, the European Union has agreed to put a limit on biofuels from agricultural crops at seven percent of E.U. transport energy – with an option for member states to go lower. Before the vote, the expected ‘business as usual’ scenario was for biofuels to account for 8.6 percent of E.U. transport energy by 2020. Current usage stands at 4.7 percent, having declined in 2013.
Indirect greenhouse emissions released by expanding biofuels production will be reported every year by the European Commission and by fuel suppliers in an attempt to increase the transparency of the impacts of the policy.
Commenting on the vote, Kirtana Chandrasekaran, Friends of the Earth International’s food sovereignty coordinator, said: “While the EU has not gone far enough to stop the irresponsible use of food crops for car fuel, this new law acknowledges a reality that small-scale food producers worldwide know – that biofuel crops cripple their ability to feed the world, compete for the land that provides their livelihood, and for the water that sustains us.”
Around the world, 64 countries have policies 64 countries have policies to increase or maintain the amount of biofuels used in transport fuel, including most recently Indonesia, which has been criticised by environmentalists as promoting a policy that will accelerate deforestation in the country.
Kurniawan Sabar, campaign manager for WALHI/Friends of the Earth Indonesia, said: “The people of Indonesia will be relieved to hear that the EU has taken some action to limit Europe’s demand for palm oil for biofuels, which has escalated deforestation, land grabbing, and conflicts in Indonesia. The Indonesian government should take note and abandon its own plans for new subsidies to expand biofuels plantations in Indonesian forests.”
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