Today’s controversial biofuels vote in the European Parliament leaves wildlife and our climate at risk from damaging biofuels production.

Melanie Coath - the RSPB's Senior Climate Change Policy Officer has been working on this issue and is disappointed at the outcome “Proposals to limit damaging biofuels in today’s vote fall far short of what is needed. As a result the biofuels industry will continue to receive billions of dollars of EU taxpayers money for deforestation, wildlife loss and climate pollution.”

RSPB campaigners have been urging UK Members of the European Parliament to put a stop to the pressures the EU are putting on natural resources and local communities in places like Kenya.

Some progress was made to limit this damage when MEPs agreed to cap the production of damaging biofuels and start accounting for their climate impacts from 2020. However, this outcome significantly waters down proposals put forward by the European Commission and does not deliver the robust measures urgently needed, and called for by environment and development NGOs including the RSPB.

Europe's biofuels industry is displacing food production in developing countries, forcing up food prices, and causing conversion of rainforests and grasslands to crops. This can cause massive damage to wildlife natural ecosystems while releasing huge amounts of carbon. This displacement is known as indirect land use change The RSPB and other NGOs have been calling for a cap of 5% biofuels in the transport energy mix, close to current production levels, thus halting further expansion.

Today’s outcome instead sees biofuels from food crops such as wheat capped at 6% of energy used in transport. This is an improvement on business as usual whereby EU countries are expected to deliver 10% of energy in transport from biofuels by 2020 but does not go far enough.

MEPs have also voted to count emissions from indirect land use change from 2020. However, this allows another 7 years of negative climate impacts from biofuels that were meant to be part of a climate solution.

Furthermore, both NGOs and industry have been left hanging as there was no clear mandate for the Parliament to negotiate the outcome with the Commission and Member States. This means that the whole process now goes to “second reading” which means more delay and uncertainty. The power now shifts to the Council of Ministers and the RSPB will be calling on the UK Government to step up and call for a swift end to damaging biofuels production.

  • I find it very encouraging that Martin Harper & co, are placing their credibility on the line like this. RSPB has a difficult path to tread over these issues as they don't wish to alienate certain sections of the membership.

    To my mind it would help to broaden the debate to not just climate change - though that is bad enough! -  but also to resource depletion,  and ecosystem destruction.

    All of these problems are being driven by our current form of capitalism. Many people know this, some are apathetic, thinking the problem is too big to solve, believing as they do that huge corporations have to much money and power to oppose. But it is not necessarily true that these people are so intent on the destruction of our biosphere, they just need new rules for the game.

    For those who do not even see the problem and those who see it but believe it impossible to fix, please read this first chapter - which is free to download - of Polly Higgins new book.

  • Glad to see the RSPB, Action Aid and FoE all basically singing from the same hymn-sheet on this one.  Keep going!