While the European Commission has been given an opportunity to revise the European Union (EU)’s biofuels targets for 2012, a new Action Aid report reveals that EU continues to ignore its biofuels policies, thus fuelling global food prices and pushing people in poor countries off their land.
The report, ‘Fuel for thought,’ points out that increased demand for biofuels may push global food prices to crisis levels while EU’s biofuel policies alone could push up oilseed prices by up to 33 per cent, maize by up to 22 per cent, sugar by up to 21 per cent and wheat by up to 10 pe rcent between now and 2020.
Laura Sullivan, ActionAid’s head of European Advocacy urges that “If it continues to ignore the impacts of its biofuels policy on people living in some of the poorest parts of the planet, the EU will effectively be sponsoring hunger and human rights abuses on a massive scale”.
With an estimated 13-19 million hectares of land outside Europe needed to meet the EU-wide targets, forced displacements of poor people from their land are set to increase, to grow fuel for the European market.
The ActionAid report, launched at a biofuels debate with participants from the European Commission, United Nations, NGOs and business, shows how a series of dodgy deals by European companies have led to mass displacements and rights abuses in countries in Africa and Latin America.
Eleven villages in Tanzania were affected when a British company seized 8,200 hectares of land to grow fuel for the European market. 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.
Sullivan said however that “Europe must start opening its eyes to the damage that its renewable energy policies are doing in poor countries – and has a chance to change them this year.
“Instead of pumping money into this fool’s gold, the EU needs to drop its targets and subsidies, and invest the money in truly sustainable alternatives, that support local farmers to produce food not fuel”.
The Renewable Energy Directive requires the European Commission to report this year on the social impacts of its renewable targets for transport – the vast majority of which will be filled by first generation industrial biofuels – and to propose ‘corrective action’ where relevant.
ActionAid calls on the European Commission to investigate the full impacts of the EU’s biofuels policies on human rights in its 2012 review and to drop its 10percent target for renewable energy in transport by 2020 – 88 per cent of which will come from first-generation biofuels.