High biofuel targets in Europe and the USA are generating hunger and illegal land grabs in poorer parts of the world, leading charities are warning.
The ‘Enough Food If‘ campaign, which is backed by leading NGOs and British Prime Minister David Cameron, calls for EU targets requiring that 10% of transport fuels come from renewable sources to be scrapped.
Figures supplied by ActionAid suggest the current EU use of crop based biofuels already uses enough food to feed 185 million people.
Around a fifth of farmland in Sierra Leone, nearly a third in Liberia and over half in Cambodia has been acquired by companies focused on green energy since 2008.
The charity warns that many farmers in the developing world are moving away from food production to a more lucrative trade in plants that can be converted into fuels.
“There is just not enough space in the Global North to grow biofuels,” ActionAid policy advisor Anders Dahlbeck told RTCC.
“Biofuel producers are buying land in South America, Africa and Asia to cope – these are often bought in dodgy circumstances and are fuelling land grabs.
“There is a responsibility in the countries where it happens but also with representatives from the EU and USA.”
Despite huge investment and promotion as a form of clean energy, the status of biofuels as an effective way to cut global emissions is under increasing scrutiny.
The exploitation of virgin forest for fuel production has already raised concerns around the world – clearing land in order to plant energy crops can often cancel out the environmental benefits of biofuel.
In October 2012 the EU proposed a cap of 5% on the food-based biofuel allowed in the renewable energy used in transport.
At the time EU Climate Commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, said: “We must invest in biofuels that achieve real emission cuts and do not compete with food.
“We are of course not closing down first generation biofuels, but we are sending a clear signal that future increases in biofuels must come from advanced biofuels.”