Monday, 10 December 2007

Leaked draft law exposes weak EU standards for agrofuels

A leaked copy of a new draft law to regulate the use of agrofuels (biofuels) in Europe reveals that the EU will fail to protect the environment and the world's poor, warned Friends of the Earth Europe. The proposed Renewables Directive is due to be launched early in 2008. The Directive will introduce into EU law a mandatory target that all fuels for transport contain at least 10% agrofuels by 2020, and sets out a plan on how to achieve this "sustainably". Friends of the Earth Europe criticises the draft Directive as it:

* Fails to acknowledge the growing international concerns about the impact of agrofuels on the environment and food security and presses on with a mandatory target.
* Does not sufficiently address the knock-on effect of rising food prices.
* Will not prevent agrofuel production from pushing other farming activities (e.g. cattle ranching or other crops) into rainforests or other important eco-systems. The Commission proposes to just monitor the situation.
* Provides no criteria to protect people in developing countries from the negative impacts of agrofuel production. Land disputes, forced evictions, human rights abuses and poor working conditions occur frequently in many countries producing crops for Europe.
* Introduces only limited "sustainability criteria" aimed at preventing deforestation and damage to wetlands but ignores other important ecosytems such as threatened biodiversity-rich savannahs (for example, the Brazilian Cerrado). The criteria are only applicable to crops used as fuels in transport but not for the same fuels used to produce electricity.
* Prevents EU member states from introducing stronger criteria at a national level.

The European Commission is expected to define the greenhouse gas savings that an agrofuel would have to meet - compared to fossil-based fuels - in order to be supported by the EU. However the leaked draft is still missing this figure, indicating continued internal disagreement within the Commission.

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