European Commission puts biofuel industry ahead of people and planet

Published: 30th November 2016

The European Commission today released draft legislation which would allow EU countries to rely on food-based biofuels made from rape seed, palm oil, wheat, and other crops to meet their 2030 climate and energy targets.

Marc-Olivier Herman, Oxfam’s biofuel expert, said: “The Commission has bowed to the pressure of the powerful biofuel industry lobby and given up on phasing out food-based biofuels. These biofuels damage the climate and the environment, and some of the world's poorest people are being pushed off their land to grow the crops used to produce them. Supporting biofuels made from food crops is totally inconsistent with the EU’s international commitments to tackling climate change and to sustainable development.

“The Commission’s proposal introduces new ambitious mandates for the use of so-called ‘advanced’ biofuels, but fails to ensure these fuels will deliver significant greenhouse gas cuts without hurting the environment or people. New energy crops or tree plantations could be grown on a large scale to meet these new mandates - worsening the ongoing and brutal global land rush.”

Notes to editors

  • Oxfam's climate and energy expert Marc-Olivier Herman is available for interviews and background information.
  • Today the European Commission released a package of measures on clean energy transition, which includes a proposal for a new Renewable Energy Directive (REDII) for the period after 2020. The directive and an accompanying regulation on the Energy Union sets out how an EU-wide 2030 target of 27% renewable energy will be reached. The proposal allows EU Member States to use large amounts of food-based biofuels to meet this target – 7% of the energy consumed in transport in 2021, progressively decreasing to 3.8% in 2030. This goes against previous policy statements made by the Commission stating that food-based biofuels would not be supported after 2020.
  • The Commission’s proposed directive also introduces a new binding 2030 target of 3.6% of transport fuels for so-called ‘advanced biofuels’, which are biofuels not made from food crops. This new target is not accompanied by adequate sustainability criteria to ensure significant greenhouse gas savings and prevent harm to people and the environment. The annexes to the directive contain a list of feed stocks that can be used to produce these biofuels, which includes energy crops, wood sourced from forests and food by-products. This new ‘advanced’ mandate is likely to cause a renewed rush on agricultural land and forests across the globe to supply the European energy market.
  • Oxfam’s report ‘Burning land, burning the climate – The biofuel industry capture of EU bioenergy policy’ sheds light on the trail of destruction left across the globe by the current EU biofuel policy. The report also documents the outsized influencing ‘fire power’ of the EU biofuel industry which has benefited from the policy. Biofuel producers reported spending between €3.7million and €5.7million annually on EU lobbying. This puts them on par with the tobacco lobby. Taken together, all actors in the biofuel value chain – from feedstock growers to biofuel producers – spent over €14 million and hired close to 400 lobbyists to promote their interests at EU level in the past year.
  • Based on new data, Oxfam’s report “Murder and eviction: the global land rush enters new more violent phase” shows that millions of people face the risk of being displaced from their ancestral and community lands as a result of land sales carried out without their consent.

Contact information

Simon Hernandez-Arthur in Washington, D.C.| 

+1 585 503 4568

For updates, please follow @Oxfam.