Unsustainable biofuels threaten the environment
On the eve of a key meeting of European energy ministers to discuss the EU’s biofuels strategy, BirdLife yesterday warned that EU policies promoting biofuels may cause more environmental damage than the conventional fuels they are designed to replace, particularly if important environmental safeguards are not put in place.
At the conference, A Sustainable Path for Biofuels in the EU, organised by BirdLife International, European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and Transport and Environment (T&E), the three organisations called on the European Commission to introduce sustainability safeguards as part of the ongoing revision of the Biofuels Directive. Participants, including Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, heard that without safeguards, greenhouse gas (GHG) savings 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. For example to meet this target for biodiesel, EU oilseed production would have to be doubled. It is clear that this target cannot be met by domestically-produced biofuels alone, and the reliance on imports of palm oil and sugar-cane-derived fuels only raises the stakes of what is at risk.
"Europe must act now or biofuels could spell disaster for biodiversity worldwide." —Ariel Brunner, BirdLife
Ariel Brunner, BirdLife's EU Policy Officer, said, "Europe must act now or biofuels could spell disaster for biodiversity worldwide. Already we are seeing European wildlife affected by biofuel production. The Little Bustard in France and the Red Kite in Germany are both examples of species being put in danger by the unmanaged conversion of land into biofuels production. The problems get even more serious when we consider the prospect of imports that are produced at the expense of tropical rainforests."
"Climate change and biodiversity loss are among our most pressing challenges," added John Hontelez, EEB Secretary General. "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."
Click here for the report of the Biofuels Conference held on 7 June 2006