Influenced by a powerful joint NGO lobby, the Members of the Environmental Committee of European Parliament yesterday voted in favour of stronger sustainability criteria and a lower target for biofuels. The proposed 10% biofuel target for 2020 was reduced to a significant lower 4% in 2015 with criteria for ambitious greenhouse gas savings and exclusion of areas like wetlands with high carbon stocks and/or biodiversity values.
Wetlands International is relieved at this outcome as its research demonstrated that biofuels are responsible for huge carbon emissions due to peatland conversion and degradation. Furthermore, it showed that biofuel production leads to the loss of many wetlands in Africa, Asia and South America.
Jane Madgwick, CEO Wetlands International:” These decisions by the European parliament are a triumph of common sense and sustainability. The discussion about the biofuel feedstock production signals the need for sustainability standards to be more widely applied to the entire agriculture sector”.
The feedstock production necessary for the ambitious 10% biofuel target would mainly come from countries like Brazil or Indonesia as the necessary land areas are not available within the EU and the most productive feedstocks only grow in tropical countries. Such a target would directly or indirectly cause large-scale deforestation, loss of peatlands and other wetlands, as well as further causing food prices to rise.
PEAT CO2 Report
Wetlands International’s report PEAT-CO2 revealed that plans for expansion of palm oil plantations in South-east Asia, targeted at 6 million hectares in the next 20 years, are heavily stimulated by the EU biofuel target. Over 50% of these new plantations are planned in tropical peatlands. These peatlands are huge carbon stores, which when drained for palm oil cultivation release huge amounts of carbon dioxide; around 60 to 100 tonnes of CO2 per ha/ year.
Biofuel production in Africa
Moreover, the recent study ‘Biofuel production in Africa’ showed that throughout Africa millions of hectares are planned to be turned into large scale biofuel plantations. Natural areas of wetlands and rainforest are the most vulnerable to this development due to the abundant water availability and because these remote areas cause less problems with land rights. Therefore, biofuel production poses a huge risks to wetlands, including major hotspots for biodiversity. Furthermore, the livelihoods of people living downstream of these plantations are affected as the water availability and quality is under threat, and the possibilities for local food production may be compromised.
No sustainability guarantee
Wetlands International is relieved with the reduced biofuel target but strongly emphasises that a lower target needs the back-up of a clear certification scheme that safeguards the fulfillment of the sustainability criteria.
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