MEP Claude Turmes speaking at "In a biofools paradise?", April 2012
Photo: Chris Coxon/ActionAid
Last week we launched our new report ‘Fuel for thought’at a panel debate at the Centrein Brussels. More than 100 people came to the event, including Members of the European Parliament, EC staff, biofuels companies, academics, civil society representatives and journalists.
The debate included UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter, who gave a clear picture of the negative impacts of biofuels production on people in developing countries. ActionAid Tanzania’s Dorcas Erskine talked about a community in Tanzania who sold their land to a UK biofuels company which did not come through on its promises, including a good deal of the compensation for the land. She noted that whilst the EU Renewable Energy Directive has good intentions at its foundations, ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions’. It is high time, she said, to admit the mistakes made with biofuels policy and to start putting them right by reviewing biofuels policies this year.
MEP Claude Turmes made a passionate intervention from the floor pleading with the European Commission to stop dragging its feet on counting the full Greenhouse gas emissions of biofuels via proper legislation on Indirect Land Use Change. Olivier De Schutter emphasised that industrial first-generation biofuels lead to higher food prices and food price volatility and are unsustainable. Willem-Jan Laan, a panellist from Unilever, echoed this thought stating that ‘substituting food for fuel in a widespread way’ is simply not a good policy.
Dorcas Erskine from AA Tanzania also invited Ruta Baltause from DG Energy to come and visit Tanzania to witness the real effects of industrial biofuels production on people there, an invitation she also extended to Energy Commissioner Oettinger.
It was an energetic event, which we hope goes some way to spurring on the debate. It is ActionAid’s position that using food for fuel - and taking advantage of the land rights situation in some of the poorest countries in the world - to meet our energy plans is not acceptable. The EU has to start opening its eyes to the social and developmental problems that European biofuels targets, part of the Renewable Energy Directive, are causing. I hope that we will continue this debate in Europe and the global south to ensure that sustainable solutions are found so that Europe does not spend this decade continuing to violate basic human rights elsewhere in the name of its own interests.