When we were promised the 'Greenest Government ever' by the Coalition last year, we were desperately hoping that wouldn't be through corporate greenwash. Given the Liberal Democrats' previously strong stance on climate change, it comes as quite a tragedy that the Coalition is even considering increasing its biofuels target to 10% of fuel by 2020.
Any arguments for increasing the target is largely based on the EU's Renewable Energy Directive which demands that, by 2020, 10% of all petrol and diesel in member states must come from renewable sources. This would supposedly allow for a reduction of emissions without any severe alterations to our lifestyles. However, apart from actually increasing carbon emissions (the 10% target would mean an extra 13 mega-tonnes a year!), biofuels also present a false solution to the real problem behind climate change: an unequal distribution of resources, and a dominance of richer nations in resource consumption in the guise of 'development'.
My largest concern about any increased importation of biofuels is directly related to land grabbing. Currently, European companies own an area larger than the size of Denmark in Africa, all for the purpose of growing crops to fuel our oil-addiction. Not only do these take over prime agricultural land, thereby reducing supply, pushing food prices up and creating mass food poverty, but it actively forces local people off their land. As land continues to be the key form of income for the majority of peoples and asserts women's rights to food sovereignty, land grabbing for biofuels has become the most effective way that richer nations are practising neocolonialism.
If the current food crisis is anything to go by, the continuation of biofuel-growth will only push food prices higher, forcing millions more into hunger, malnutrition and poverty. In order for the UK to meet its obligations in the Millennium Development Goals of 'eradicating extreme poverty and hunger', food prices need to remain stable and affordable. The doubling effect of food speculation driven by the growth of the biofuel industry will certainly not solve that problem, and nor will aid. Hunger will only be stopped by food security through food sovereignty - and for the UK government, that's not going to happen with biofuel investment.
If the British government is set on meeting their targets on renewable transport fuel, the solution will not come from biofuels, but through a reduction in fuel consumption in the first place. Instead, we should be looking at more investment in our public transport services, improving our rail networks to become more fuel-efficient and focussing on internal methods of renewable fuel development instead of continuing our exploitative habit of raping the land of the world’s poorest people.