Last week was an important stepping stone in the biofuels campaign. Two key bodies in Europe; the European Parliament and the European Council, began scrutinising a proposal to reform European policy on biofuels.
UK biofuels targets, as well as those across Europe, are driven by European renewable energy targets, and last year the European Commission announced a new proposal to reform European biofuels policy, giving us a golden opportunity to end the use of Food for Fuel across Europe.
Whilst the proposal is welcome because it includes measures to limit the proportion of food-based crops being used to meet biofuels targets the proposal doesn’t go far enough - we need a total ban on biofuels grown on land that could be used to grow food, otherwise millions will still go hungry. The proposal must also be strengthened to rule out biofuels with the worst climate change emissions.
Both MEPs and national governments have an equal say on the new legislation, giving us two good opportunities to influence it this year. And both kicked off the process of looking at the proposal last week.
Firstly, on Wednesday 20th MEPs sitting on the main committees who will review the proposal attended a hearing in the European Parliament to hear evidence on some of the key issues. You can read more on Oxfam's EU blog. From here the key committees will discuss the proposal and vote on their amendments in June-July. The proposal will then come back to the full European Parliament for all MEPs to vote on it this Autumn.
Also last week, on Friday 22nd European Energy Ministers met in Brussels to discuss the proposal. Many member states raised concerns about the greenhouse gas emissions from biofuels. Ed Davey, the British energy and environment minister, called for action saying "Clearly some of the ways that biofuels have been damaging the environment and undermining action on climate change need to be addressed".
Even the Energy Commissioner, Günther Oettinger admitted that biofuels had lost their initial shine and that their role in delivering EU action on climate change needed to be looked at. He also acknowledged the rising backlash against them, saying that he had “never received so many emails".
Unfortunately there was less consensus around ending the use of biofuels made from food crops, showing that we really need to keep up the pressure on the call for Food not Fuel.
The proposal will next be discussed by Environment Ministers when they meet in late March, and we expect member states to reach a final position by the beginning of June.
This is not the only opportunity for action on biofuels this year. The UK, as chair of the G8, has committed to put global hunger high on the political agenda during its presidency. The Food and Hunger Summit, that will take place just before the G8 summit, will be a great moment for the UK to lead some of the world’s richest nations and act to end the use of biofuels targets which are driving hunger.
To build pressure ahead of these crucial decisions, we’re building a massive symbolic field of wheat, made up of grains signed by those who have supported the campaign.
And we’re taking it right to those with the power to make a difference - we met with MEPs when the proposal came out and gave them each their own individual stalk of wheat, to remind them of the public call for Food not Fuel. We also took the field to Lewes when we met Norman Baker, the minister responsible for biofuels in the UK. In April we’ll be taking it back to Brussels when we meet lead MEPs, and then we’ll stage a massive field of wheat in front of the Houses of Parliament ahead of the Hunger Summit and G8, creating a visual message that can’t be ignored.
If you haven’t already, add your grain to our field and join the call for Food not Fuel today.