Three European environmental organizations are warning that EU policies promoting biofuels may cause more environmental damage than the conventional fuels they are designed to replace if important environmental safeguards are not put in place.
The three organizations—the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), BirdLife International and Transport and Environment (T&E)—issued their call to the European Commission at the conference, A sustainable path for biofuels in the EU, organized by EEB. The EU energy ministers tomorrow begin debating the EU Biomass Action Plan, published in December. (Earlier post.)
Without introducing sustainability safeguards, the groups state, reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will be negligible, biodiversity will be harmed, and ultimately the public could reject biofuels if they are not seen to be a credible environmental alternative to fossil fuels.
According to an EU-sponsored study, meeting the EU’s target of replacing 5.75% of fossil fuels with biofuels would consume 14-27% of EU agricultural land. To meet the biodiesel target, 192% of 2005 EU oilseed production would be needed, or 14% of the forecast world production in 2012. As a result, meeting the 5.75% biofuels target will force a greater reliance on imports.
Climate change and biodiversity loss are among our most pressing challenges. We must urgently reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change. But we must tackle climate change and biodiversity loss in tandem. Biofuels are only part of the solution. Unless we produce biofuels sustainably, we’ll end up with more energy-intensive and environmentally damaging farming practices and hasten the degradation of our ecosystems.—John Hontelez, EEB Secretary General
The three environmental organizations want only biofuels that are produced sustainably and which offer substantive greenhouse gas benefits to be eligible for public support and count towards public targets, such as the EU target of 5.75%.