Biofuels have driven nearly 300 large-scale land grabs worldwide, a new report by GRAIN reveals today, on the eve of a meeting of EU energy ministers (22 February 2013) to debate the future of biofuels in Europe.
EU targets have put Europe at the forefront of increasing global demand for environmentally and socially damaging biofuels – demand which has prompted some 17 million hectares, equal to almost the entire agricultural area of Germany, to be grabbed from local populations over the past decade, says GRAIN.
Energy Ministers from 27 EU states are meeting in Brussels (February 22 2013) to debate for the first time proposed changes to biofuels laws. The proposals on the table seek to limit the quantity of food crops which will be used for fuel. But they still mandate significant quantities of biofuels that compete with food production, and must be revised to stop EU biofuels policy contributing to further land grabs and carbon emissions.
Biofuels production has pushed farming and forest communities off their land from Colombia to Sierra Leone to Indonesia, threatening livelihoods and food security, GRAIN claims. Meanwhile, biofuels are failing to achieve promised reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, with some found to have a worse carbon footprint than conventional fossil fuel.
Devlin Kuyek, a researcher with GRAIN, said: “Europe’s consumption of biofuels translates directly into the loss of lands, water and food for rural communities in the South. Each hectare of land that gets converted to biofuel production to fill European cars has a cost, and these communities are the ones paying for it.”
European companies have already staked out claims to well over five million hectares of land in Africa, Asia and Latin America for biofuels, with often devastating impacts on local communities. GRAIN predicts that land grabs for biofuels will more than double by 2020, if current EU mandates are not challenged.
Robbie Blake, biofuels campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said: “Europe’s biofuels are not only greedy for land, but also make climate change worse and force food prices up. European governments must step in to stop crops being used to fuel cars. We need a truly green transport system that serves people and the planet, not biofuels that damage communities and wreck the environment.”
Demand for food is expected to rise sharply in coming decades, while agricultural land around the world is increasingly degraded. Diverting precious farmland to the production of fuel for cars is plainly irresponsible. All the more so since these lands are often home to the very rural communities whose food systems provide the world with the models needed to reverse the environmental crisis that fossil fuels have provoked.
These communities and the food systems they sustain are not renewable.