EU renewable energy strategy ignores impact of biofuels on food security

Published: 6 June 2012

Today, European Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger published the European Commission’s policy blueprint on the post-2020 strategy for renewable energy. EU Energy Ministers will discuss this new proposal on June 15th.

Oxfam welcomes that the European Commission recognises the need to improve the EU’s sustainability framework for bioenergy before it decides to further promote its use. However, the Commission remains totally silent on the effects the EU’s biofuels policy is having on food security in developing countries. The focus remains exclusively on the environmental impact.

The EC fails to draw the lessons from the negative effects of the current 2020 10% binding target of renewable energy in transport which – according to the plans submitted by EU member states – will be met almost exclusively through biofuels produced from food crops. Evidence shows the target is pushing up global food prices and helping fuel a wave of evictions and land grabs in developing countries. The EC leaves the option of a similar target for 2030 open. Oxfam believes the existing 2020 target should be scrapped and no new target for 2030 should be set.

Marc Oliver Herman, Oxfam’s EU biofuels expert, said:

“We welcome an ambitious European renewable energy policy. But it is shocking that the Commission’s blueprint ignores that the current EU biofuels policy is driving up global food prices and helping push people in poor countries off their land.”

“When they meet next week, EU Ministers have the chance to tell the Commission that a renewable future for Europe must not come at the expense of millions of families in developing countries struggling to feed their children. Ministers must urge Energy Commissioner Oettinger to reform the flawed 2020 biofuels policy before moving on to 2030. This means scrapping the binding 10% 2020 target for renewable energy in transport, as this will be largely met through biofuels produced from food crops.”

Read more

Why Oxfam is concerned about biofuels mandates (PDF, 275 KB)

Notes to Editors

  • The EU’s biofuels policies alone could push up oilseed prices by up to 33%, maize by up to 22%, sugar by up to 21% and wheat by up to 10%, between now and 2020 > Source (PDF)
  • To cover Europe’s needs alone, the EU biofuels target would require converting up to 69,000 km2 of natural ecosystems into cropland, an area larger than Belgium and the Netherlands combined > Source (PDF)
  • Biofuels may drive more than 50% of large-scale land acquisitions globally, and 66% in Africa > Source (PDF)
  • Achieving a 10 per cent biofuels share in transport fuel globally by 2020 could put an extra 140 million people at risk of hunger, with the poor urban population, subsistence farmers and the landless in developing countries particularly at risk > Source (PDF)
  • The planned increase in biofuels use could cost European consumers an extra €94 to €126 billion between now and 2020 > Source for Germany (PDF), Source for UK (PDF)

Contact Information

Angela Corbalan on + 32 (0) 473 56 22 60 or angela.corbalan@oxfaminternational.org

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