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Monday, 06 May 2013

UN Special Rapporteur : EU must phase out biofuel incentives

The EU biofuels policy may have a negative impact on developing countries, in terms of enjoyment of the right to food, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter,  wrote to the EU Member States and the European Commission on April 18th.
De Schutter considers that the available arable land in the EU is insufficient to produce all the needed feedstocks for biofuels that compliance with the Renewable Energy Directive (from the European Commission, 2009) would require. Consequently, the EU Member States should outsource biofuels production to  developing countries in order to meet the targets set. However, he considers that the impacts on these countries are overwhelmingly negative and are alleged to infringe on the realization of the human right to adequate food.
According to the Special Rapporteur, one of the main concerns is that the cultivation of feedstocks (i.e., agricultural raw materials such as maize, palm oil or sugar cane) to produce biofuels requires large areas of land, thereby creating incentives for the land leases or acquisitions in countries, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the rights of the current land users are often inadequately protected. He also argues that the increased pressure on land and water resources in developing countries extends beyond the areas dedicated to energy crops (when land previously used to grow food or animal feed is turned over to grow biofuels thereby displacing the original land use into new areas).
The key recommendation is to reduce and eventually remove the EU incentives for the production of biofuels that threaten the right to food -  such as the binding EU targets for renewable energy in transport and national biofuel mandates.

A 2009 EC Directive has set mandatory consumption targets of 20 percent renewable energy overall and 10 percent renewable energy in the transport sector. In 2012, the Commission proposed to cap the contribution of so-called “first-generation” ethanol and biodiesel at 5 percent of the transport sector’s target.

This later move is seen as a step in the right direction according to the Special Rapporteur. Accordingly, he urged MEPs and member states to avoid diluting the proposals or adding fresh incentives for biofuel production in the current decision-making process.

Source: United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food