A vote by MEPs today on Europe’s biofuels policy is a “kick in the teeth” for the world’s poor and the UK government must now take over the fight for the one in eight around the world who go hungry every day, ActionAid said.
Nuria Molina, ActionAid’s Director of Policy and Campaigns, said:
“Today’s vote is a great disappointment and a kick in the teeth for the millions of people facing hunger because of land grabs and rising fuel prices.
”MEPs from across Europe turned their backs on the world’s poor, as well as their own constituents by voting for a reform of biofuels legislation that will continue to encourage food being used for fuel, therefore driving hunger and land grabs in Africa.
“They voted for a 6% cap on biofuels which compete with food, which would allow enough food to be burnt in Europe’s cars to feed more than 200 million people every year.
“However some progress was made as at least MEPs voted to acknowledge the role that biofuels have in causing hunger and contributing to climate change.
“The baton now passes to the UK government, which must fight in within Europe to make sure the cap on biofuels is as low as possible, and no higher than 5%. A UK position of anything higher would be a failure to live up to David Cameron's promise made at this summer’s G8 to tackle global hunger.”
MEPs were voting to cap the amount of land-based and food-based biofuels used in transport fuel. In October, the European Commission proposed a cap of 5% on the amount of food that can be used to meet the overall 10% target for renewable energy in transport by 2020.
This proposal was welcomed by development and green groups as a first step in the right direction to control the promotion of the first generation biofuels industry. But wrangling in the European Parliament led to a watering down of the Commission’s limitation, particularly by the industry committee, which had proposed a 6.5% cap.
The EU’s renewable energy target, which requires 10% of all energy used in EU transport to come from renewable sources by 2020, promotes biofuels as a greener alternative to fossil fuels. However, research has shown that most biofuels cause climate emissions just as much as the fossil fuels they were designed to replace, as well as pushing up food prices and causing hunger.
In 2011, ten international organisations including the FAO, World Bank and WTO called on G20 leaders to end all subsidies and targets for biofuels globally given their impact on food price volatility.
In Sub-Saharan Africa six million hectares of land – 38 times the size of London – is now under the control of European companies seeking to make money from Europe’s biofuel policies. Of the European companies that have invested in biofuels in Sub-Saharan Africa, 30 are from the UK.