The European Commission’s Report on Indirect Land Use Change admits that the environmental credentials of biofuels – a major plank in the UK government’s renewable energy push – are not clear and recommended a further six months of studies, the RSPB says.
Transport biofuel made from crops such as jatropha and sugar cane currently make up around three per cent of the petrol and diesel in UK pumps.
However, the UK Government is planning to increase this to 10 per cent by 2020 to meet an EU target for renewable fuels.
Mark Avery, RSPB director of conservation, said: “When is the UK and Europe going to wake up to the fact that the current biofuels regime is a big green con? Rather than providing an environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels, they will increase emissions and destroy precious wildlife habitats.
“The UK government and the European Commission must stop relying on large scale and unproven biofuels to meet renewable energy targets for transport, and instead meet them through smarter cars that use less fuel or run on green electricity. Otherwise filling our tanks with biofuel will just add to climate change and wildlife destruction.
“We are already seeing the direct impacts of these policies. Around the world areas that are hugely important for wildlife are being put at risk in the name of sustainability. The Dakatcha Woodlands in Kenya will be completely destroyed if a clearance plan to grow biofuels goes ahead. This would push the threatened Clarke’s weaver bird to extinction, and displace an estimated 20,000 people.”
The Tana River Delta in Kenya is another site threatened by these so-called ‘green fuels’. There are several proposals to grow biofuels there, including one from British company G4 Industries Limited, which threaten a wide range of wetland birds species such as the endangered Basra reed warbler, along with two monkey species, the Tana River red colobus and the Tana River crested mangabey.
The latest EC report looks at the impact of Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) as a result of biofuel plantations. But after a year of study, instead of setting promised sustainability criteria, the Commission has instead called for further scientific investigation. Leaving fundamental issues like ILUC unresolved raises doubts about the wisdom of the EU’s 10 per cent target for renewable transport fuel, and the UK’s intention to meet it entirely through biofuels.
A study out earlier this year concluded that biofuels could cause more emissions than the fossil fuels they replace (see editors note 4). The study, backed by the RSPB and other environmental groups, found that the UK’s drive for biofuels could destroy an extra 1.6 million hectares of wildlife habitat – bigger than the size of Northern Ireland – by 2020. And it would create carbon emissions equivalent to putting nearly six million extra cars on the roads.