Biofuels will cause food prices to rocket, warns ActionAid ahead of clean energy ministerial

Cameron’s government must beware 'clean energy' biofuels con, as new ActionAid report shows the shocking fallout of EU policy

Matilde Ngoene

As the world’s biggest energy businesses prepare to discuss ‘clean’ energy with ministers from 23 countries, (at London’s Clean Energy Ministerial on Wednesday 25th and Thursday 26th April), a hard-hitting ActionAid report serves as a warning to Cameron’s government against attributing any environmental or social benefits to biofuels.

Fuel for thought’ shows that increased demand for biofuels is set to push global food prices to crisis levels, with the EU’s biofuels policies alone set to push up prices by as high as 33% for oilseed, 22% for maize, 21% for sugar  and 10% for wheat between now and 2021.

Rather than being the sustainable answer to climate change that many people expected, there is a solid evidence base that biofuels contribute to extra greenhouse gas emissions instead of helping to reduce them.

Clare Coffey, biofuels advisor for ActionAid says:“In a week dedicated to Clean Energy, the Government must face up to the fact that biofuels are not the hoped-for magic bullet against climate change.

“Not only are biofuels bad for the environment, but as ActionAid's new report shows they are having a devastating impact on the lives of people in poor countries. They need to be ruled out of all clean energy discussions.”

As well as driving up global food prices and creating world hunger, the new ActionAid report shows that Europe’s biofuels policies – which the UK has signed up to - are  increasing landgrabbing, pushing people in poor countries off their land.

With an estimated 13-19 million hectares of land outside of Europe needed to meet the EU-wide targets, forced displacements of poor people from their land are set to increase, to grow fuel for the European market.

The ActionAid report shows how a series of dodgy deals by European companies have led to rights abuses in countries in Africa and Latin America.

Poor families in eleven villages in Tanzania are suffering economically after a British company converted 8,200 hectares of land to grow fuel for the European market.

While in Guatemala – a country that the EU labels as being a significant supplier of biofuels for the European market – the grabbing of land for sugar production has resulted in violent clashes and even deaths.

Coffey continues: “If the UK continues to ignore the impacts of biofuels policy on people living in some of the poorest parts of the planet, it will effectively be sponsoring hunger and human rights abuses on a massive scale.

“Biofuels have no part to play in delivering the clean energy targets.  The UK must drop its misguided policies and invest in sustainable alternatives such as fuel efficiency instead.”

Download 'Fuel for Thought'