EU member states should follow the Parliament’s lead and reduce role for biofuels

“Member States must place the needs of poor people before those of powerful lobbies”
Luis Morago
Head of Oxfam’s EU office
Published: 9 October 2008

EU member states must follow the Parliament’s lead and oppose the European Commission’s proposal to boost the use of biofuels in transport fuels to 10% by 2020, as part of the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive.

The EU Energy Council meet tomorrow (10 October) and its decision will be vital if Europe is to step back from the brink of promoting first-generation biofuels, which are proving so harmful to millions of people in developing countries.

“Member States must place the needs of poor people and the environment before those of powerful industrial and agricultural lobbies,” said Luis Morago, head of Oxfam’s EU office. “Biofuels were meant to be an alternative to oil – a secure source of new transport energy. But instead they are helping to worsen climate change and stealing crops and land away from food production, destroying millions of livelihoods in the process.”

If produced under strict conditions, biofuels may offer some opportunities for sustainable development, but the Commission’s proposals for sustainability standards have fallen far short of what is required. Oxfam calls on EU member states show the same bold leadership on biofuel sustainability as the European Parliament, which recently approved a Directive that included comprehensive standards to protect the environment and vulnerable people’s land and human rights, plus a mid-term review that would allow for the 10% target to be scrapped or reduced if it was found to be harming people’s food security.
MEPs also voted to reduce biofuels share of the 10% renewable transport target to 6%, with the remainder to come from non-food competing second-generation biofuels such as those from municipal waste, or  from electric cars.

A growing number of international institutions, including the World Bank, IMF and FAO, have identified biofuel policies as a one of the main drivers of the current global food crisis which is estimated to have cost developing countries over €218bn ($300bn) in one year, more than three times what they’ve received in aid, and pushed over 100 million women, men and children into poverty.

The final agreement between Parliament and member states, which should lead to a redefinition of Community legislation on biofuels, is expected in late 2008 or early 2009.