Now would be a good time to dump the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO).  This precipitate law was rushed through without the implications being fully understood (here’s a press release from 2008 setting out the story in more details).

In the UK the RTFO is currently forcing 3.5 % inclusion of biofuel in vehicle fuel and this will rise to 5% by 2013.   And if the European Commission (and Member States) fails to see sense and implement some meaningful safeguards to prevent damaging land use change across the globe (and cap the use of biofuels) - it’s going to get much worse by 2020. By this date every Member State is meant to have replaced 10% of the energy they use in transport with renewable sources

We’ve been following the efforts of Nature Kenya to protect two special places in Kenya – the Tana River Delta and the Dakatcha woodlands.  At the heart of both issues is the market for biofuels – a hunger driven by measures such as the RTFO.  The headlong rush to exploit this new crop means that local views risk being swept aside, unplanned and bad decisions are made and, inevitably, the natural world is further damaged.

There is a chain of consequence between the RTFO in the UK and our colleagues in Kenya having to face down an armed mob when taking a journalist to visit the threatened Dakatcha woodlands.

In Kenya the challenge is to buy time to stop the destruction – time that can be used to plan a future that includes necessary sustainable development and can ensure that the natural environment is not sacrificed on the altar of speculative development.

In the UK we could help ease that pressure by replacing the costly RTFO with other measures that actually hit climate targets without pushing places like the Tana River Delta and Dakatcha woodlands to the brink.

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  • I'm sure most people have no idea of the scale of the global biofuels disaster. If I remember correctly, The Economist recently reported that the next generation of biofuels (which it is hoped will not harm the environment) are 10 years away, so there is lots more grief to come. And at the heart of it all is, of course, money.

    If it has not already been done, I hope someone will write a definitive account of how this appalling situation came about. It is an object lesson in how 'green' good intentions can lead to the destruction of some of the world's best natural and semi-natural habitats.

    And biofuels are just the start. There's nothing 'green' about tidal barrages and hydro-electric power if they destroy precious estuaries or wonderful forests. I think you're in for a busy time ahead Andre. I wish you lots of luck - the natural world is going to need some.