European Environmentalists Fuming over Biofuels Report

5 May 2010

An official EU document obtained by Reuters using freedom of information laws predicts that Europe's demand for biofuels is likely to contribute to climate change and harm the environment. The report suggests that the greenhouse gas emissions from biodiesel can be as much as four times greater than emissions from diesel or gasoline.

The document was the final of four studies intended to analyse the ramifications of proposed changes in European policies on the biofuels trade, focusing on global agriculture and environmental change.

"The EU's biofuel policy is looking more and more unsustainable and if not urgently reviewed will lead to deforestation, more climate changing emissions and damage to the environment," said Adrian Bebb, agrofuels campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth Europe following the Reuters report. "It is time to end this madness and bring in real solutions to the climate crisis."

The EU has already come under fire for failing to release similar documents. Environmentalists have also stirred up a fuss over the recent release of an EU report that found that the increased use of biofuels in the 27-nation bloc could trigger food shortages in developing countries and negatively impact the climate.

The EU's target of 10 percent of road transport fuel to come from "renewable sources" by 2010 could severely impact the environment, the new report finds. It further suggests that any increase above 5.6 percent of transport fuels from biofuels could "erode the environmental sustainability of biofuels." An increase of just 4.6 percent could severely increase greenhouse gas emissions, the report found.

"For the third time in six weeks the [European] Commission is forced to release studies about the climate effects of biofuels," said Nusa Urbancic of Transport and Environment (T&E), a Brussels-based campaign group promoting sustainable green transportation. "And for the third time these studies show that land use is the most important factor in deciding if biofuels make sense or not."

A coalition of environmental groups including T&E has now launched legal action against the European Commission over its failure to freely release documents outlining the negative environmental impacts of biofuels, such as the one obtained by Reuters. The lawsuit accuses the Commission of breaching several European laws designed to promote transparency, democracy, and legitimacy in European policy-making.

ICTSD reporting; "Europes Biofuel Policy unsustainable new research confirms," FRIENDS OF THE EARTH EUROPE, 26 March 2010; "Once-hidden EU report reveals damage from biodiesel," EURACTIV, 22 April 2010; "Global Trade and Environmental Impact Study of the EU Biofuels Mandate; Final Report," European Commission, March 2010.

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