Biofuels and carbon footprint

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Courtesy of Wetlands International

Europe’s use of biofuels to fuel its vehicles risks driving land grabs and deforestation, increasing food prices, exacerbating poverty and hunger, and accelerating climate change. We are seriously concerned that the Commission has not yet taken action to ensure that Europe’s green transport policy discourages those biofuels that cause higher greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuels1.

Scientists have made it clear that urgent action is needed, warning about the high levels of emissions that result from indirect land use change (ILUC). According to the results of the Commission’s own studies, the carbon footprint of biodiesel can be worse than that of fossil fuels once these indirect side-effects are taken into account2.

Land that would otherwise be used to feed people and livestock now satisfies the EU’s growing hunger for biofuels. New lands must be ploughed up elsewhere for food and feed, destroying vital ecosystems and carbon stores like forests and peat land, a process that releases millions of tons of emissions and accelerates climate change. This reality undermines the environmental benefits that EU biofuels policy promises.

Without effective policy measures, subsidised biofuels consumed in Europe are highly unlikely to reduce the rising contribution of Europe’s transport sector to global climate change, and threaten to undermine the otherwise positive outcomes of renewable energy and fuel quality policies.

Moreover, increasing the use of biofuels can also squeeze food supplies, amplifying the risk of food crises (and exacerbating land-grabbing conflicts across the world). Industrial biofuels production requires large amounts of land and other natural resources such as water, which should be used to meet the basic needs of local populations, not to sustain extraction of energy for foreign markets.

The Commission is about to meet to decide on its legislative proposal on how to deal with the issue of ILUC. We call on you, as an immediate first step to prevent the use of the most climatedamaging biofuels, to introduce a proposal for feedstock-specific ILUC emission factors when calculating carbon footprints in both the Renewable Energy and Fuel Quality Directives.

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