Civil society groups demonstrated this morning in front of a gathering of the European Biofuels Technology Platform (EBFTP) in Brussels, protesting against the plans of this industry-led EU advisory group for a dramatic boost of Europe’s target for agrofuels use in transport to 25% (by 2030). The EBFTP’s demand comes at a time when the European Commission’s current proposal for a 10% target is facing intensive criticism due to the severe social and environmental effects of expanding production of agrofuels crops, especially in developing countries.
The EBFTP, dominated by oil, car and biotech companies, met today to launch the Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) and Strategy Deployment Document (SDD), which outline a detailed road map for allocating EU research & development funds in order to reach the 25 % target.
“It is ludicrous that Research Commissioner Potocnik last week backed the EBFTP, an industry platform promoting a 25% agrofuel target which would cause a further large scale environmental and social disaster in countries like Brazil and Indonesia, where farmers communities and plantation workers are already facing displacement and deteriorating working conditions due to the recent agrofuel boom”, said Jonas Vanreusel from FIAN, an international organisation for the right to food.
Negative impacts would not limit to producer countries in the South, “Europe, which imports agricultural products and food, has not enough agricultural land to produce agrofuels, except for local use on the farm, and should give priority to food production” said Gérard Choplin, from the European Farmers Coordination (CPE).
“Decisions about EU’s research funding should not be left in the hand of corporations with a direct commercial interest in boosting agrofuels production. We don't want funding for GMO agrofuel crops like GM trees, for example”, Nina Holland of Corporate Europe Observatory said, an Amsterdam-based research and campaign group.
The EBFTP was established in June 2006 at the initiative of the Commission’s DG Research and continues to have the undiluted backing of Commissioner Potocnik, despite growing criticism. Earlier this month, a coalition of civil society groups wrote to Commissioner Potocnik, urging him not to follow the EBFTP’s advice but instead fund research to determine the impact of agrofuels on greenhouse gas emissions.
The Commission’s current 10% target (by 2020) has recently been heavily criticised by a range of prominent voices including the UN´s special rapporteur on right to food Jean Ziegler, the UK parliament's environmental audit committee (EAC), the Commission’s Joint Research Centre, as well as EU Environment and Development Commissioners, Stavros Dimas and Louis Michel. Calls for a moratorium on all targets and incentives for expanding agrofuels use are on the rise.
“Ironically, the EBFTP conference is held to coincide with the EU Sustainable Energy Week, but agrofuels are not a sustainable cure to our oil addiction, and even less to climate change” Nina Holland said.