Taking biofuels to Rio!

Clare Coffey's picture Clare Coffey Policy Advisor

This June, a big jamboree will be taking place in Rio de Janeiro, bringing together government leaders, business and civil society groups from around the globe to talk about sustainable development. But will Rio+20 address one of the most critical issues facing the world - the growing food to fuel crisis that has already pushed up food prices, lead to land grab on unprecedented scale and making climate change worse rather than better?

The Summit is being called 'Rio+20' since it marks the twentieth anniversary since the first Earth Summit held in the same city in 1992. But unlike the first time around, the level of expectation around this summit is much lower. The first Summit gave birth to three international conventions on climate change and on biodiversity, as well as producing the mammoth Agenda 21 document that sets out how countries and citizens could move towards environmentally and socially sustainable development. 

In stark contrast, there has so far been a palpable lack of excitement around the Rio+20 Summit. This has been particularly so in the UK, where government ambition has been particularly muted, characterised also by the lack of commitment from the Prime Minister to attend.

But that is all set to change with the announcement that the deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will go to Rio.

Clegg's attendance will be a boost to the Summit, as well as a boost to Lib Dems keen to demonstrate their green and anti-poverty credentials. Clegg now has a unique opportunity to show leadership on critical issues and none is more critical than the crises around biofuels. Thus far, Rio+20 preparatory document refer to the importance of securing food for all and access to energy for all, but no one has had the courage to tackle the ‘elephant in the room’: the fact that food is being diverted from poor people and countries to provide fuel for the world's rich countries. 

The UK has put a brake on biofuels targets due to concerns around their sustainability. ActionAid is calling on Nick Clegg to make sure that leaders meeting in Rio follow the UK lead. 

If you haven't already done so, sign the petition calling on him and other members of the UK government to act on biofuels!