EU Energy Ministers must stop pandering to an unsustainable biofuel industry that fuels hunger and climate change

Published: 22nd February 2013

In reaction to the orientations discussed today by Energy Ministers on changes to the European biofuels policy, Marc Olivier Herman, Oxfam’s EU Policy Advisor said:

"Again today we see far too many European Energy Ministers ignoring the evidence that biofuels are helping to drive up food prices and also creating the perfect conditions for more land and water grabs.

“Biofuels are worsening the problems of landlessness and hunger for millions of poor people. EU leaders must stop pandering to industry interests and instead lay out a plan to phase out the use of biofuels.

“They must scrap the 10% target for renewable energy in transport and the national biofuels mandates. They should phase out all support to biofuels by 2020. They also need to fully account for the full carbon footprint of biofuels.”

Notes to editors:

  • The debate today is based on a proposal submitted by the European Commission (15189/12) to amend the 1998 Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) and the 2009 Renewable Energy Directive (RED).
  • By failing to prevent EU countries from subsidizing first generation above the proposed 5% target for renewable energy in transport, the proposal is not ambitious enough to effectively scale back the use of food-based biofuels in the EU. “Member States can continue to subsidize food based biofuels even up to 10% if they wish,” Energy Commissioner Oettinger told ministers today.
  • As the greenhouse gas emissions from the displacement of agriculture on to forested land and carbon sink (a process is known as indirect land use change or ILUC) remain unaccounted for in the proposed Directive, the EU will continue to support biofuels that are more polluting than fossil fuels, such as biodiesel from palm oil, soybeans or rapeseed.
  • Some Member States such as Czech Republic, Poland or Hungary stated that ILUC does not happen in their own country.
  • Several Member states have argued against a limit on biofuels made from food crops, e.g. Spain, or in favor of raising the 5% limit proposed by the Commission, e.g. Italy.
  • Denmark has proposed to set the limit on food based biofuels at 4% and to speed up the introduction of factors to account for the emissions arising from indirect land use change.

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