Campaign blog

Insight, debate and campaigning news from ActionAid

Time to tackle rising food prices caused by biofuels

I was pleased to see the UK's International Development Committee's (IDC) sobering report on Global Food Security this week. The IDC was very clear about one thing: biofuels production is pushing up food prices. In fact, it categorically stated that "Biofuels are driving higher and more volatile food prices and are having a major detrimental impact on food security." Doesn't leave much room for interpretation, does it?

As for solutions, the IDC went on to recommend that "the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO), which commits the UK to consuming biofuel equivalent to 5% of transport fuel volumes, be revised to exclude agriculturally produced biofuels."

Biofuels are currently being discussed in the European Union which is revising its biofuels policies. The UK government has been pushing to address the carbon emissions associated with biofuels consumption through so called Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) factors, which is a way to ensure that all the extra carbon emissions resulting from biofuels production are accounted for.

This is important and should be commended, but the UK government has remained silent on proposals of capping the amount of food that can be used as fuel.  The IDC makes it clear that "The introduction of ILUC factors and the imposition of a cap are not mutually exclusive options: both can be pursued concurrently. We recommend that the UK Government push for both, and that it push for the cap to be set at as low a level as possible."

It seems that the UK's Government, as well as many of its MEPs, bury their heads in the sand regarding the food price impacts of biofuels consumption. That is despite the OECD, the UN and even the EU itself pointing out that a correlation between switching agricultural land from food production to biofuels production causes food prices. Why is the evidence being ignored? In part, because of effective lobbying from the biofuels industry which focuses on short-term profits and seems to take little account of how biofuels production can affect people and the environment.

While it is in the nature of private companies to try to maximise profits - that is what they are there for - it is disappointing that the politicians we have elected to represent us seem to be defending the corporate interest of a few rather than addressing climate change and food price rises that ultimately affect all of us.

The IDC has addressed the negative effects of biofuels in a refreshingly honest way. Now our politicians here in Westminster and our elected representatives in Brussels must take note of the IDC's report and act accordingly.

A coalition of UK NGOs including ActionAid, Friends of the Earth, RSPB, Greenpeace, Save the Children and Oxfam is calling on the UK and EU to account for all climate impacts of biofuel production and to end the use of food for fuel.

A Recipe for Hunger

Elly Ahimidiwe

My name is Elly Ahimidiwe and I am an ActionAid Activista from Tanzania campaigning on land rights and food security.  This May and June, I have had the opportunity to come here to the UK to participate in the Enough Food For Everyone IF Campaign by highlighting the issue of landgrabbing in Tanzania for the purpose of growing biofuels.

Back in my country I witnessed many families suffering from malnutrition diseases like Kwashiorkor and Marasmus.  That they don’t have enough food to feed themselves is made more tragic when you consider that hunger like this is not always caused through drought or poor agricultural practices but often because the land these people have farmed for generations has been taken off them in landgrabs for companies to plant biofuels.  I have seen the direct results of these practices and I am in the UK to urge your politicians to act now to change policies that incentivise using farmland to plant crops for fuel instead of crops for food.

The EU has a target of 10% of transport fuels to be met through renewable energy, mainly biofuels, by 2020.  This drives multinational corporations to buy farm land in my community and then to use that land to plant biofuels for European instead of food for local people.  This target helps create a more unjust world where people suffer from food scarcity, malnutrition, and hunger.

This week I will be taking my experiences to an event organized by the Enough Food For Everyone IF campaign as part of the UK government’s Nutrition For Growth summit. A Recipe For Hunger will bring people together to talk about what causes hunger and malnutrition in developing countries.  I will be there to tell the audience that the EU’s biofuels targets are a cause of hunger and malnutrition in my country.


The Big IF London – will you be there?

Ema Jackson's picture Posted by Ema JacksonCampaigns Assistant

I am so excited about going to the Big IF rally in Hyde Park, London on Saturday!

What's happening at the Big IF rally

When you arrive in Hyde Park, along with thousands of others, you will have the chance to plant a spinning flower as part of a breath-taking art installation that will be the size of a football field! This huge visual petition will represent the 2 million children’s lives lost each year due to hunger, sending the G8 leaders a message that they cannot ignore. You can make your personalised spinning flower on the day, or even better bring one that you have made at home. Download your instructions for making the spinning flowers. 

Hear inspiring speeches from humanitarian and wife of Nelson Mandela, Graca Machel, philanthropist Bill Gates, former Archbishop of Canterbury and Chair of Christian Aid Rowan Williams, broadcaster Natasha Kaplinsky and Alvin Mosioma, Director of Tax Justice Network Africa. The event will be hosted by Gethin Jones and Myleene Klass and will also include exclusive appearances from a number of campaign supporters including Grammy Award winning singer Angelique Kidjo.

Then we will make a huge noise (feel free to bring pots to bang, whistles and vuvuzelas to blow, rattles to shake etc!) to demand change, making sure that G8 leaders go to Northern Ireland with our demands ringing in their ears. Because IF we make enough noise, they won’t be able to ignore us.

There will also be a children’s area, a blogger area, a youth area, a picnic area and much more.

And if all that hasn’t inspired you to come then read a message from Eddie Izzard asking you to be there. It is going to be an amazing day – see you there!

Join ActionAid in Hyde Park

Come and find us at the ActionAid stall where you can claim your free T-shirt to say thank you for all your amazing campaigning this year! 

We are on stall number 2 in the Campaigns Zone, next door to Oxfam. We’ll have some giant ActionAid flags and 5ft ActionAid balloons so you shouldn’t be able to miss us, either at the stall or in the crowd. You can also call our Campaign Officer Caroline Jones if you can’t find us, on 075 3344 7618. The nearest tube stations to the rally are Knightsbridge and South Kensington.

We’ll be ready to welcome you from 1.30pm to give you your free ActionAid/IF tshirt, placard and noisemaker for the rally. The Campaign Zone will be ready for to public to explore from 12pm, and to avoid the queues it’s best to arrive as early as possible to plant your flower as part of the mass visual petition. We’ll also be holding workshops where you can find out more about what we’re calling for and hear from Elly and Joy, ActionAid campaigners from Tanzania and Kenya.

Stewards will be on hand to help guide you from one area to the other.

Any questions email and register your place.

Sod the poor, go offshore! Welcome to Tax Heaven…

Chris Jordan's picture Posted by Chris Jordan Tax Justice Campaign Manager
Sod the poor, go offshore

The secret’s out. Nearly half of all investment in developing countries goes through tax havens, making it easy for companies to avoid tax bills in the world’s poorest countries. Ridiculous, right?

Yesterday, ActionAid UK unearthed conclusive proof of the lunacy of tax havens. This website might seem unreal, but the facts and stories are shockingly true. See it and share it here >>

Putting up with this situation is crazy when developing countries are losing 3 times more to tax havens than they receive in aid each year. But we have a huge opportunity to make David Cameron bring an end to tax havens at the G8 summit.

Together thousands of us have taken action calling for tax justice, and the pressure is mounting. Last week, George Osborne declared tax avoidance would take centre stage, after our tweets and calls flooded his office.

Now, we have only a few weeks to act together to end to tax havens – and make sure poor countries see the benefits immediately. That means as many people as possible seeing the absurdity behind the tax haven scandal, and demanding change.

Take action today:  Please sign the petition on Tax Heaven and share the site with your friends and family, by Facebook, Twitter or email.

Just a few weeks to go! Together, we can put a stop to tax havens

Read more about tax havens and their effect on tax avoidance in developing countries in our report: How Tax Havens Plunder the Poor.

Tags: G8, tax heaven

Top 3 reasons why you have to be in Hyde Park on 8th June:

Ema Jackson's picture Posted by Ema JacksonCampaigns Assistant
Big IF London

There are loads of reasons to come to the Big IF London rally in Hyde Park, Saturday 8 June, but to help you decide I’ve picked my top three. 

1. Be part of the movement:

The IF Campaign is a massive movement with over 200 organisations participating and over 100,000 people taking action, but now the campaign has reached its most important moment – the G8 summit. And so we need thousands of people to come to the Big IF London rally in Hyde Park on Saturday 8 June to demand that the G8 leaders make 2013 the beginning of the end of global hunger. This is incredibly important in a world where one in eight people go to bed hungry every day.  


2. Make the G8 clamp down on tax havens: 

Poor countries loose three times as much money to tax havens as they receive in aid each year. The G8 leaders have the opportunity to change this, but they won’t do it unless we push them. That’s why we need as many people as possible to be at the Big IF London rally, so that together we can make a noise loud enough that the G8 leaders can’t ignore us.


3. Be part of a massive visual petition:

At the Big IF rally we will together be building a mass visual petition made up by each of the attendees planting a ‘spinning flower.’ You can find out more about the spinning flowers here. This incredible art installation will be the size of a football field and will create a breath-taking visual image that will go down in history and send the G8 leaders a message they can’t ignore. As well as the huge visual petition, there will be exciting speakers, such as Bill Gates and Rowan Williams, interactive areas such as a children’s area and much more. 


But none of this can happen without you. We need you, and as many people as you can bring along, to make this day be a huge success and have a real impact on the lives of people in developing countries. Sign up for Big IF London here.