28 Jan 2008, 1:21pm
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EU Persists With Biofuels (Despite Skyrocketing 3rd World Food Prices)

BRUSSELS, Jan 23 (IPS) - The European Union has decided to maintain a target for increasing the use of biofuels despite mounting concerns that its strategy could worsen global hunger.In a far-reaching action plan for combating climate change published Jan. 23, the European Commission, the EU executive, announced that it was sticking to a previously agreed goal that biofuels should provide 10 percent of the energy needed to power cars and other modes of transport by 2020.

This was despite a barrage of recent criticism of this goal, including by some figures within the Commission. Louis Michel, the European commissioner for development aid, said earlier this month that there is a genuine risk that traditional agriculture in poor countries will be damaged if arable land is used for growing crops destined to meet energy needs in wealthier parts of the world.

Also, a study by scientists working for the Commission has concluded that “the uncertainty is too great to say whether the EU 10 percent biofuel target will save greenhouse gases or not.”…

Last week Indonesia witnessed street protests because soya bean prices climbed to record levels as a result of U.S. farmers realising that biofuels can be more lucrative than soya.

“The EU has set a very ambitious target and has no idea how to meet it,” Woollcombe told IPS. “If it can’t reach this target in a sustainable way, it should go back to the drawing board.”

A South American campaigner complained that the Commission is not taking into account how peasants have been displaced from their land in some poor countries to make way for plantations of palm oil, the main biofuel used in Europe.

“The sustainability criteria proposed by the European Commission exclude vital factors such as large-scale water extraction, soil erosion, land conflicts, human rights and the labour conditions of workers,” said Stella Semino from Grupo de Reflexión Rural in Argentina. “Moreover, they can’t deal with macro-level impacts such as displacement and increased food prices.” … [more]



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