Today, ActionAid launches its new report Fuel for Thought, urging social issues arising from EU biofuel policies to be tackled. The report reveals that biofuel policies are driving up global food prices and pushing people in poor countries off their land.
Amalia, 26, from the Polochic valley in Guatemala, with her son in the middle of the land they were evicted from. They were evicted to make way for plantations to grow sugar that could be turned into biofuels to fuel cars in Europe.
When the European Union passed the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) in 2009, social issues were omitted. There are criteria covering some environmental issues – but nothing on whether large scale plantations displace people, the impacts on women and food security, working conditions and so on. All the European Commission has to do is report on social issues every two years.
The first report from the Commission is due at the end of 2012. ActionAid’s new report shows that many human rights – the right to land, water, food, decent jobs etc – are already being violated across the globe by biofuel land grabs.
EU companies are grabbing land in order to meet the EU target whereby 10% of transport fuel must come from renewable sources by 2020 (a sub target in the RED). EU member states plan to fill as much as 88% of this target using biofuels.
The ActionAid report reveals that communities from eleven villages in Tanzania were affected when a British company seized 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 3 deaths.
The report also highlights that increased demand for biofuels may push global food prices to crisis levels; EU’s biofuels policies alone could push up oilseed prices by up to 33%, maize by up to 22%, sugar by up to 21% and wheat by up to 10%, between now and 2020. And rather than being the sustainable answer to climate change that many people expected, there is a solid evidence base that biofuels contribute to extra CO2 emissions instead of helping to reduce them.
The report comes during the week when many of the world’s biggest energy businesses prepare to discuss their ideas for ‘clean’ energy with ministers from 23 countries around the globe at London’s Clean Energy Ministerial on 25th- 26th April.
As the report makes clear, most biofuels, particularly those produced on an industrial scale, are not clean; they have significant environmental and social impacts and should not be part of the UK, EU or global energy mix.
Ultimately, we believe that the UK and the EU should drop their misguided targets.