First published on the ActionAid Blog as part of their series on Biofuels
When we were promised the “Greenest Government ever” by the coalition last year, we were desperately hoping that wouldn’t be through corporate greenwash. Given the Liberal Democrats’ strong stance on climate change previously, it comes as quite a tragedy that the Coalition is deciding to increase its biofuels target to 10% of fuel by 2020.
The arguments from the coalition have largely centred around the EU’s REDD commitment of 10% renewable transport fuel by 2010, explaining that biofuels would allow for a reduction of emissions without severe alterations to our lifestyles. However, apart from actually increasing carbon emissions (to 13 mega-tonnes a year!), biofuels also present a false solution to the real problem behind climate change: an unequal distribution of resources, and a dominance of richer nations in resource consumption in the guise of “development”.
My largest concern in biofuels is directly related to land grabbing. Currently, European companies own an area larger than the size of Denmark in Africa, all for the purpose of growing crops to fuel our oil-addiction. Not only do these take over prime agricultural land, thereby reducing supply, pushing food prices up and creating mass food poverty, but forces local people off their land. As land continues to be the key form of income for the majority of peoples and asserts women’s rights to food sovereignty, land grabbing for biofuels has become most effective way that richer nations are practising neocolonialism.
If the current food crisis is anything to by, the continuation of biofuel-growth will only push food prices higher, forcing millions more into hunger, malnutrition and poverty. In order for the UK to meet its obligations in the Millennium Development Goals of “eradicating extreme poverty and hunger” food prices need to remain stable and affordable. The doubling effect of food speculation driven by the growth of the biofuel industry will certainly not solve that problem, and nor will aid. Hunger will only be stopped by food security through food sovereignty – and for the UK government, that’s not going to happen by biofuel investment.
If the British government is set on redeeming their targets on renewable transport fuel, the solution will not come from biofuels, but through a reduction in fuel consumption in the first place. Instead, we should be looking at more investment in our public transport services, improving our rail networks to become more fuel-efficient and focussing on internal methods of renewable fuel development instead of continuing our exploitative habit of raping the land of the poorest.