----- Original Message -----
From: Teresa Anderson
Sent: Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
The tide of opinion in Europe is clearly changing against agrofuels, judging from a European Parliament vote and an independent UK government review released yesterday. But policy makers are clearly not quite ready to make the strong stand that is evidently necessary, and are misguided in their hopes that sustainable and second generation biofuels will offer the way forward.
The African Biodiversity Network was among the many organisations that lobbied European MEPs to vote against the proposed 10% biofuel target in the EU, in an EU Environment Committee vote yesterday. NGOs and civil society organisations called on MEPs to drop targets altogether, claiming that biofuel targets drive rising food prices, land grabs and deforestation in Africa.
While MEPs did not drop targets altogether, they did agree to lower the targets from 10% to 4%, which is a victory of sorts. It shows that there are serious doubts over the genuine sustainability of agrofuels, and an awareness that they one of the main drivers of the current international food crisis, as well as causing deforestation and climate change.
An independent UK government review of Biofuels, the Gallagher Report, was also released yesterday. It also found that agrofuels drive up food prices and do little to combat climate change. In spite of these findings, the review failed to recommend the necessary action to prevent the disasters that it outlined. In an echo of the EU vote, instead of calling for biofuel targets to be scrapped, the Gallagher report called for lower and slower introduction of targets, and pinned its hopes on "sustainable" biofuels and second generation biofuels.
Unfortunately, it is clear to most NGOs and civil society groups that "sustainability" criteria for agrofuels will not work, on the scale required. The land to grow agrofuels must come from somewhere, and Africa's land land and resources are most likely to be affected. "Second Generation" agrofuels are an even more serious risk, as they are likely to be GMOs, while also requiring huge amounts of land on which to be grown.
In spite of this, we must celebrate and honour the excellent work by NGOs to achieve a change in the Environment Committee's vote. The lobbying work will continue for the Industry Committee vote later this month.
The significant drop in the agrofuel target should signal to African governments that not only do agrofuels bring more harm than good, but the tide of opinion is changing, and that they may not be a secure investment for African development.
1. EU Panel Votes to Lower Controversial Biofuel Goal
Article from Reuters. Date: 8 July 2008 http://in.reuters.com/article/oilRpt/idINL0833720720080708
2. MEPs Support Reduced EU Biofuel Target
Press Release from Friends of the Earth Europe. Date: 7 July 2008 http://www.foeeurope.org/press/2008/Jul07_MEPs_support_reduced_EU_biofuels_target.html
3. Letter to Members of the Environment Committee of the European Parliament
From the African Biodiversity Network. Date: 1 July 2008
4. UK Government to Adopt 'Cautious' Approach on Biofuels for Transport
Article from the Guardian. Date: 7 July 2008
David Adam and Alok Jha http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/jul/07/biofuels.food
NOTE: Apposite comment from an article about Australian energy policy: "The temptation for our politicians to look for magic bullet technological solutions to global warming is great. The notion that a technological deus ex machine will spare us from having to adjust our consumption patterns and therefore spare politicians voter angst -- continues to fascinate (Freeman Dyson recently advocated genetically-modified carbon-eating trees)."