Oxfam welcomes European Parliament vote to lower cap on biofuels threatening food security

Today the European Parliament’s Environment Committee voted in favor of tightening the cap on biofuels competing with food production for land and other precious resources, such as water. If passed, changes to the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive and the Fuel Quality Directive voted on today would bring the share of biofuels made from crops down to 6 percent of the energy mix used in European transportation.  Negotiations between the Parliament and EU governments are scheduled to start on March 9th.

Marc-Olivier Herman, Oxfam’s EU biofuels expert, said:

“By reaching an agreement, MEPs avoided a potential pitfall and put people’s right to food above the production of environmentally damaging biofuels. Today’s decision to go for a lower biofuels cap than the one proposed by EU energy ministers cements the case that biofuels drive up food prices - hitting the world’s poorest hardest.”

“European governments must now heed the Parliament’s vote and agree a lower cap on crop-based biofuels to stop them straining the resources desperately needed to grow food. The amount of land used to grow crops is expected to rise by 5.2 million hectares by 2020 as a direct result of Europe’s biofuel habit, an area more than twice the size of Rwanda, with three quarters of this land being outside the EU.”

“The Finnish, ALDE lead MEP Nils Torvalds must stay strong when negotiating with governments to defend food security, the climate and the rights of those affected by Europe’s thirst for biofuels.  Torvalds must ensure that proper accounting of carbon emissions from converting land for agricultural use is maintained to end support for biofuels that harm the climate. Maintaining the safeguards introduced by the Parliament to protect the land rights of communities affected by land deals to produce biofuels is also key.”

Notes to editors: 
  • In October 2012, the European Commission proposed amending the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive by introducing a 5 percent limit for counting food crop-based biofuels towards the 10 percent target for renewable energy in transport fuels by 2020, improving sustainability criteria and promoting the use of advanced biofuels. In September 2013, the European Parliament voted for a 6 percent cap. In June 2014, EU member states proposed a 7 percent cap.
  • A report by Oxfam and the Heinrich Böll Foundation, Biofuels: Effects on Global Agricultural Prices and Climate Change, found that if Europe stopped its support of biofuels by 2020, the region could lower its cereal imports by 27 million tons and its oilseed imports by 6 million tons, remarkably reducing its dependence on foreign goods. Global food prices could also drop significantly. Another Oxfam report, The Hunger Grains: The fight is on. Time to scrap EU biofuel mandates, shows how land used to power European cars with biofuels for one year could produce enough wheat and maize to feed 127 million people.
  • The increase of land used to grow crops worldwide was highlighted in the report Impacts of the EU biofuels target on agricultural modelling and land use, written by the European Commission and the Institute for Prospective Technology Studies.
Contact information: 

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