Using food for fuel when millions of people are starving is wrong. The ‘If’ campaign is trying to persuade world leaders to stop using corn and palm oil to produce fuel for cars. But it’s not just people who are suffering because of the global demand for biofuels, nature is too. We’ve written before about two wonderful habitats for rare and endangered birds in East Africa – Dakatcha woodland and the Tana River Delta – and there are terrible examples of deforestation in tropical countries as well. What you may not realise is that the UK’s landscape is also changing and our green and pleasant land is becoming covered in ever more yellow rape-seed oil.

This demand is being driven by a well-intentioned but ill-designed European Union policy aimed at reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. This policy means that governments are giving the biofuels industry subsidies worth billions of pounds a year across Europe. The trouble is that not only do biofuels cause huge problems for fragile ecosystems, they don’t even reduce emissions in the way they’re meant to. More and more, research has revealed that if you grow food or energy crops for fuel, the greenhouse gas emissions can be even greater than using dirty old fossil fuels. This is because every time you change one field from growing food to growing fuel another bit of land somewhere else has to be brought into agricultural production (for example, by clearing an area of forest), and the emissions from doing that wipe out any benefit we might otherwise have seen and trash a vital habitat for wildlife.

The next few months will be crucial as the European Union debates a change to EU biofuels law. We know how to fix this problem in a way that will stop the harm being done to nature and the climate, while still allowing innovative industries to bring new, genuinely beneficial, technologies to the market. Two key parliamentary committees will vote on this issue soon – the Industry Committee on 20 June and the Environment Committee on 10 July.

Here is a list of those UK MEPs who are on these committees and will be able to vote directly: Linda Macavan – Yorkshire and The Humber, Chris Davies – North West, Giles Chichester – South West and Gibraltar, Julie Girling – South West, Fiona Hall – North East.

Even if one of your MEPs is not on the committee they will have a key opportunity to influence the vote by talking to those who are, so we need your help.  Please e-mail or write to your MEPs and:

  • Ask them to support the introduction of ‘factors’ for indirect land use change driven by biofuel production – sound like jargon but it just means a mechanism that takes into account the emissions caused by clearing new areas of land to grow food so we can factor in the full impact of biofuel production;
  • Ask them to support a strict cap of 5% on the amount of biofuels which can be used to meet our renewable energy targets;
  • Make sure they know that old-fashioned biofuels which depend on using vast swathes of land, driving deforestation and devastating critical habitats in the UK and across the world should play no part in our long term future plans for energy generation.

You can find out who your MEPs are, and how to contact them on the European Parliament website, or you could use the Write to Them website.

Please let us know if you’ve taken part by commenting on this post or by e-mailing campaigns@rspb.org.uk – we’d also be interested to see any replies you receive.

Thanks for your help!

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