Corporate Europe Observatory

Exposing the power of corporate lobbying in the EU

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corporate-sponsored vision for agrofuels

A corporate-sponsored vision for agrofuels?What is the future vision for agrofuels? This was the topic under debate at an event organised on October 6 by the European Voice in the European Parliament with sponsorship from Shell.What is the future vision for agrofuels? This was the topic under debate at an event organised on October 6 by the European Voice in the European Parliament with sponsorship from Shell.
What is the future vision for agrofuels? This was the topic under debate at an event organised on October 6 by the European Voice in the European Parliament with sponsorship from Shell. Panellists from Shell, UNICA (the association of Brazilian sugar cane growers), WWF, the European Commission, EU presidency Sweden and the Parliament debated the outstanding issues of the EU agrofuel policy. Key was the significance of indirect land use change (ILUC) - when the expansion of agrofuel production in one place pushes the production of other crops (for example food) elsewhere. Paul Hodson from DG TREN came under attack from Claude Turmes MEP (Greens), for the completely intransparent way in which the Commission is dealing with the indirect land use change issue. The Commission has announced it will publish a proposal on how to deal with ILUC by March 2010. Hodson said that a meeting had taken place on the 5 October bringing together some 80 industry representatives and certificiation experts to discuss the issue. Turmes, who has done battle with Hodson many times over the 10% agrofuel target, criticised the Commission, saying: “These people like Paul [Hodson] are now in the driving seat to develop the methodology. There is no transparency and the Parliament is not even invited to these discussions.” Geraldine Kutas from UNICA - the organisation which won the 2008 EU Worst Lobby Award - said that replacing fossil fuels with “biofuels” like sugar cane ethanol was a matter of urgency. But Kutas saw no reason to rush the issue of ILUC, saying that that “There is no scientific consensus on ILUC; we need more time”. Sven-Olov Ericson from the Swedish Ministry of Enterprise admitted that Sweden was an ethanol champion: relying mainly on imported Brazilian ethanol from sugar cane. He called for a “cleaning out” of “bad biofuels" and an expansion of “good biofuels”. It is difficult to see how that can be achieved since there are currently no reliable mandatory criteria in place, and the Renewables Directive does not provide any; even aside from the unresolved issues that monoculture expansion will have indirect land use change and social impacts. Claude Turmes stressed that the pressure on land was increasing. He warned that in California, even conservative estimates of indirect land use change impact would inhibit the use of many agrofuels that now meet the directive’s criteria. He said that these estimates, with more scientific research, are bound to go up. WWF was the only NGO invited; perhaps because this organisation was the only one to support the 10% agrofuel target. It was clear to everyone that – as Imke Luebeke of WWF correctly pointed out - that social issues are “not WWF’s core issue”. Nevertheless, her colleague Jean-Philippe Denruyter told the other NGOs in 2007 that if the Commission proposal did not include any social criteria whatsoever, “… then I believe that all NGOs will oppose this kind of scheme. Including us.” There were no social criteria, but WWF still supported the agrofuel target. Both Paul Hodson and a representative from Shell, pointed to the WWF-initiated voluntary schemes, including the Better Sugar Cane Initiative, the Round Table on Sustainable Biofuels, and the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) as a way forward. These initiatives however have been criticised as greenwashing for agrofuels, and will certainly not provide a solution for one thing: indirect land use change.
What is the future vision for agrofuels? This was the topic under debate at an event organised on October 6 by the European Voice in the European Parliament with sponsorship from Shell. Panellists from Shell, UNICA (the association of Brazilian sugar cane growers), WWF, the European Commission, EU presidency Sweden and the Parliament debated the outstanding issues of the EU agrofuel policy. Key was the significance of indirect land use change (ILUC) - when the expansion of agrofuel production in one place pushes the production of other crops (for example food) elsewhere. Paul Hodson from DG TREN came under attack from Claude Turmes MEP (Greens), for the completely intransparent way in which the Commission is dealing with the indirect land use change issue. The Commission has announced it will publish a proposal on how to deal with ILUC by March 2010. Hodson said that a meeting had taken place on the 5 October bringing together some 80 industry representatives and certificiation experts to discuss the issue. Turmes, who has done battle with Hodson many times over the 10% agrofuel target, criticised the Commission, saying: “These people like Paul [Hodson] are now in the driving seat to develop the methodology. There is no transparency and the Parliament is not even invited to these discussions.” Geraldine Kutas from UNICA - the organisation which won the 2008 EU Worst Lobby Award - said that replacing fossil fuels with “biofuels” like sugar cane ethanol was a matter of urgency. But Kutas saw no reason to rush the issue of ILUC, saying that that “There is no scientific consensus on ILUC; we need more time”. Sven-Olov Ericson from the Swedish Ministry of Enterprise admitted that Sweden was an ethanol champion: relying mainly on imported Brazilian ethanol from sugar cane. He called for a “cleaning out” of “bad biofuels" and an expansion of “good biofuels”. It is difficult to see how that can be achieved since there are currently no reliable mandatory criteria in place, and the Renewables Directive does not provide any; even aside from the unresolved issues that monoculture expansion will have indirect land use change and social impacts. Claude Turmes stressed that the pressure on land was increasing. He warned that in California, even conservative estimates of indirect land use change impact would inhibit the use of many agrofuels that now meet the directive’s criteria. He said that these estimates, with more scientific research, are bound to go up. WWF was the only NGO invited; perhaps because this organisation was the only one to support the 10% agrofuel target. It was clear to everyone that – as Imke Luebeke of WWF correctly pointed out - that social issues are “not WWF’s core issue”. Nevertheless, her colleague Jean-Philippe Denruyter told the other NGOs in 2007 that if the Commission proposal did not include any social criteria whatsoever, “… then I believe that all NGOs will oppose this kind of scheme. Including us.” There were no social criteria, but WWF still supported the agrofuel target. Both Paul Hodson and a representative from Shell, pointed to the WWF-initiated voluntary schemes, including the Better Sugar Cane Initiative, the Round Table on Sustainable Biofuels, and the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) as a way forward. These initiatives however have been criticised as greenwashing for agrofuels, and will certainly not provide a solution for one thing: indirect land use change.
 

This week's European Commission decision to extend Glyphosate's market authorisation points to many broader problems - here is a CEO overview of the issues at large.

The official EU assessment of glyphosate was based on unpublished studies owned by industry. Seven months later, the pesticide industry still fights disclosure and, so far, successfully. We obtained a copy of their arguments.

In recent times we have seen various examples of green activists “coming out” as GMO-proponents, arguing that GMOs are safe and have multiple benefits: reduced pesticide use, higher income for farmers, contributing to food security, reduced greenhouse gas emissions... As an essential part of their discourse, organisations that continue to reject GMO technology are depicted as old-fashioned and as acting in contradiction to their own aims.

Mark Lynas is a well known example of this in the UK, with an (in)famous public apology for his past role in the anti-GM movement that drew a lot of media attention. Lynas' move has been copied by others, like blogger Stijn Bruers in Belgium. This framing of the GMO debate has proven quite attractive to the media, even though it is not always clear why specifically these people are seen to have the credentials to merit this attention.

There are many fundamental flaws in the argumentation they are putting forward. Claire Robinson of GMWatch, at the request of Corporate Europe Observatory, has written a rebuttal of many of the claims made by these newly converted GMO proponents. For practical reasons, this rebuttal follows the argumentation and claims made in an article by Bruers on his blog about GMOs .

On 15 June 2016, the Commission will finally announce the long-awaited scientific criteria for EDCs. Time to do a recap of this last season’s main episodes.

A few weeks after the May coup against Dilma Rousseff by conservative parties backed by the country's largest corporations, Brazil's “interim” government, led by Michel Temer, signed an emergency loan to the State of Rio de Janeiro to help finance infrastructure for the 2016 Olympics. The bailout was conditional to selling off the State's public water supply and sanitation company, the Companhia Estadual de Águas e Esgotos (Cedae). 

When we interviewed City Councillor and chair of Rio’s Special Committee on the Water Crisis Renato Cinco, in December 2015, he was already warning against such privatisation threats and provided important background information on the water situation in Rio.

José Manuel Barroso's move to Goldman Sachs has catapulted the EU’s revolving door problem onto the political agenda. It is symbolic of the excessive corporate influence at the highest levels of the EU.

Corporate Europe Observatory, Friends of the Earth and LobbyControl today wrote to Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, calling on him to investigate Angelika Nieber MEP over a possible conflict of interest.

CEO presents some first reflections on the UK's vote for Brexit.

 
 
 
 
 
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The corporate lobby tour