NGOs petition EU to change biofuel stance


A document leaked from the EU appears to show how the Commission intends to allow and support conversion of rainforest to produce biodiesel.

To try and halt this catastrophic decision Wetlands International and a long list of concerned NGOs have drafted a letter to the Commission calling for sound interpretation of the Renewable Energy Directive. "In our letter, we make clear that undermining the deforestation criterion will hasten deforestation and violates several articles of the Renewable Energy Directive. It cannot hold," said Alex Kaat of Wetlands International.

The massive irony of the situation, of course, is that people are even considering destroying rainforests in order to grow monoculture plantations for fuel. But, the farce doesn't stop there. Apparently, the EU is considering labelling these palm oil plantations as "forests".

Palm oil plantation by Dario Novellino

This "forest" of young palm oil plants on recently converted rainforest.

© Dario Novellino

Of course the EU needs, and wants, to curb its emissions, but doing this on the back of destroying rainforest - deforestation is estimated to account for between 10 and 20% of greenhouse gas emissions - is a startlingly short-sighted response. The EU wants to run 10% of its transport sector on renewables by 2020 so cheap Asian palm oil is the likely financial favourite. But sustainability shouldn't always be about cheap.

Wetlands International say the leaked document clearly conflicts with the EU Renewable Energy Directive, which excludes biofuels if produced on recently converted "continuously forested areas". This limits the rate of loss of forest and peat soils for conversion. But it is this definition that is under threat by "civil servants under pressure from the southeast Asian palm oil lobby, " said Wetlands International in a press release yesterday.

The leaked document says palm oil plantations can be defined as "continuously forested areas" making ongoing conversion a legal and technical formality.

Meanwhile in the UK a planning decision to build a biofuel power plant in Bristol has hit the news. Campaigners are attempting to stop the plans that would run on 70,000 tonnes of oil a year. So far the planning decision has been rejected by city councillors, but as they were instructed to vote on "material planning considerations, not emotions", according to the BBC, they may have to defend this position if the company behind the application decides to appeal.

Download the joint letter of Wetlands International and other NGOs to the European Commission

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