European Biofuel Policies “Unethical”

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Credit: Naomi Johnstone.

A report by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics blasts European Union (EU) biofuel targets as unethical. The EU Renewable Energy Directive, which calls for biofuels to comprise 10% of transport fuel by 2020, was originally put foward as part of Europe’s climate change strategy. It has since been heavily criticized for driving an unsustainable expansion of biofuel production, especially in developing countries, driving deforestration, rising global food prices, and the displacement of Indigenous peoples and local communities. The Nuffield report says that existing policies should be replaced by a new enforceable strategy and strict ethical and environmental standards backed by a certification process. Six principles are suggested as the basis for future biofuel policies, including: respecting people’s rights to food, work and health; equitably distributing costs and benefits; environmental sustainability (including using less land, pesticides, and fertilizers); contributing to a net reduction in total greenhouse-gas emissions; and adhering to fair-trade principles.

Critics voice serious concerns about the viability of certification schemes and the production of any amount of biofuels. According to Robert Palgrave (Biofuelwatch), “There is no scientific credible way of calculating the full climate impacts of agrofuels. Indirect impacts are not just about ‘hectare for hectare’ displacement; they are also about the interaction between land prices and speculation, about the impacts of roads, ports and other infrastructure on forests, about policy changes which affect land rights, about scarcely-understood interactions between biodiversity, ecosystems and the climate.”

Download the full report, entitled “Biofuels – Ethical Issues“. Read accompanying press coverage in BBC News and NatureNews.

14 April 2011

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