|Dakatcha Woodlands, Kenya, under threat from EU biofuels policy
Dakatcha Woodlands in Kenya, a biodiversity hotspot and home to 20,000 people, was under a threat of total destruction by a biofuel project. The project was proposed by a European company, encouraged by the 10% renewable fuels target within the EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED). Three years of intensive campaigning by the Kenyan and UK BirdLife Partners has secured a future for Dakatcha Woodlands. This is one case example of an increasing number of European companies seizing land overseas to take advantage of the biofuel support in Europe. BirdLife calls on Europe and national governments to scrap the support for damaging biofuels.
Dakatcha woodlands Important Bird Area (IBA) on the coast of Kenya was threatened with destruction because of a biofuel project. Dakatcha has dry forests with dense thickets that are interspersed with active and abandoned farmlands. It is home to 20,000 people mostly subsisting of the land. It is also a wildlife hotspot with a number of globally threatened birds such the Fischer’s Turaco and Clarke’s Weaver.
Kenya Jatropha Energy Limited (KJEL), owned by the Italian company Nuove Iniziative Industriali Srl, proposed clearing 50,000 hectares in order to grow the biofuel crop Jatropha. The project would have devastated Dakatcha Woodlands, the valuable biodiversity and the livelihoods of the local people.
BirdLife and its Kenyan and UK Partners have campaigned vigorously on the case at both national and European levels. In late 2010 we commissioned two expert reports. A Life-Cycle Analysis of greenhouse gas emissions projected that carbon emissions from the project could have been up to six times more than fossil fuels. A legal analysis found that the project would have breached the RED sustainability criteria.
In February 2012 we received good news, the Kenyan environment regulator (NEMA) has refused permission for the proposed KJEL jatropha project and advised the developer to look for an alternative site.
Demand for biofuels is growing rapidly across the world particularly in the EU where targets and financial incentives have been introduced. This has led to a “gold rush” for land in developing countries, a market that is fed by the generous financial support in the EU. The Kenyan Tana River Delta is currently facing a similar threat, and there are a number of similar cases appearing in developing countries.
We do not believe the existing EU targets can be met sustainably. We believe the EU and national governments should scrap biofuel targets and replace them with ambitious plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions from transport through efficiency and electric vehicles. Any remaining biofuels should be used in hard to decarbonise sectors, such as aviation, and should meet high sustainability and greenhouse gas emission standards that include consideration of Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC).
| Further reading:
RSPB (BirdLife partner in the UK)
Helen Byron, Helen.Byron(at)rspb.org.uk