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european groups: exposing the real impacts of agrofuels

Friends of the Earth Europe believes that the current rush to develop agrofuels is ill-conceived and will contribute to an already unsustainable trade in plant-based oils, whilst not solving the problems of climate change or energy security.

germany palm oilThe European Union’s policy to increase the use of biofuels (labelled agrofuels by Friends of the Earth and others because of the damaging, industrial scale on which they are produced) is inherently unsustainable. At the end of 2008 the EU adopted a mandatory 10% renewable energy target for transport, to be reached by 2020. If this target is met through the use of agrofuels, it is likely to drive deforestation, and damage the environment as land is cleared for agrofuels feedstock production. It is also expected to create more greenhouse gas emissions, increase hunger, and encourage rampant land-grabbing in the South. 


In November 2009, Friends of the Earth Europe and a range of other European NGOs co-published "Biofuels - Handle with care", which analyzes the EU’s biofuel policy in detail. The report highlights the failure to account for the environmental impact of indirect land use change when calculating greenhouse gas benefits, meaning there is a substantial risk that the current EU biofuel policy will cause more harm than good. 


This was followed by another publication, "Losing the plot," published in December 2009. This publication is specifically about jatropha, an agrofuel crop that can be grown on poor soil. The agrofuels industry argues that this means it can be cultivated without impacting food production. But there is mounting evidence that fertile land is being turned over to jatropha production, meaning that there is less land available to grow food. Friends of the Earth Europe’s report adds to that evidence. It looks specifically at the impact of India’s jatropha production on rural communities in the state of Chhattisgarh. In this traditional rice-growing region, thousands of tribal and lower caste Indians have been forced off community lands which they have relied on for generations.


FoE Germany / BUND, together with human rights and development NGOs, also delivered 10,000 signatures to the Colombian Embassy in Berlin, to protest against the continuing human rights abuses in Colombia, which the expansion of the palm oil industry is fuelling.


A more effective way to reduce greenhouse gases and secure energy supply is to reduce demand, improve efficiency and develop sustainable transport systems. Agrofuels are no substitute for these priorities.

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