EU biofuels policy provokes human rights abuses - ActionAid & An Taisce

10th December 2013
Press Release

Ireland imports 80 times more biofuel from low-income Guatemala than it grows on its own soil

EU biofuels policy is provoking human rights abuses, including mass land clearances in poorer countries[]i[].

ActionAid and An Taisce warn that there is risk of the situation becoming far worse, depending on the outcome of a key 12th Dec vote of EU energy ministers.

The NGOs point to mass evictions that have taken place across poorer countries[]ii[] and have taken the unprecedented step of writing to all 28 EU energy ministers, pressing them to reform EU biofuels policy on 12th Dec.

"EU biofuels policy has become nothing short of modern-day colonialism - the major difference is that European countries are acting in concert now", say the NGOs in their letter.

EU mandates and subsidies for biofuels see local people in poorer countries thrown off food-growing lands which are then assigned to large companies to plant fuel crops. The apparent indifference by so many EU energy ministers to what's going on sees them mimic colonial overlords of the early 1900s, the NGOs say in the joint letter.

The first Europeans to strike out against colonial power and its abuse - people like Alice Stoppard Green, ED Morel and Roger Casement - would turn in their graves today seeing what the EU is doing.

The Irish NGOs highlight how Ireland itself presents a disastrous example of a disastrous policy. Ireland imports 80 times more land-based biofuel from low-income Guatemala than it grows on its own soil, with 2012 data showing that Ireland imports 3.8 million litres of biofuel derived from crops grown in Guatemala, while only producing 49,000 litres from domestically grown rapeseed oil. To put things in perspective, 49,000 litres is less than 2 fuel trucks say the NGOs.

In fact, Ireland produces a mere 15% of its own biofuel. "Neither of the two main aims of European biofuels policy - greater self-sufficiency and lower emissions - are being met in either Ireland or Europe" say the NGOs.

With Ireland already importing 80 times more land-based biofuel from a low-income country than it grows itself, the NGOs ask: "what is going to happen if Ireland is forced increase its level of biofuel consumption by 2 or 3 times - as current proposals suggest?"

"The answer is stark: with very tight competition for land here in Ireland, virtually all the additional biofuel will be imported, with Ireland indirectly encouraging land dispossession in poorer countries".

"Telling it as it is, if EU Ministers persist in raising target levels for biofuels, they are taking food out of the mouths of those most in need in order to satisfy a bankrupt EU policy objective. Any policy that aids and abets hunger in poorer countries is unconscionable", says the letter.

Fortunately, there remains time to limit the damage and the NGOs have asked EU energy ministers to reform the trading bloc's biofuels policy.

Under the reform proposed by Irish NGOs, member states would not be forced to raise consumption above current levels, but would instead achieve greater levels of energy savings and/or using more renewables in heating or power generation.

"The EU's biofuel mandates have encouraged the dispossession of those most in need. The good news is that there remains time for change, and there are solutions to avoid making a very bad situation utterly perverse" the letter concludes[]iii[]

ENDS

For further information, please call:

James Nix, Policy Director, An Taisce Tel: +353 86 8394129

Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce +353 87 2411995

Email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org

An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland

www.antaisce.ie

Notes:

[1] http://www.actionaid.org/sites/files/actionaid/fuel_for_thought.pdf

[2] http://www.trocaire.org/blogs/land-mayan-actor-aidan-gillen-visits-trocaire-project-guatemala

[3] Link to letter

[i] http://www.actionaid.org/sites/files/actionaid/fuel_for_thought.pdf

[ii] http://www.trocaire.org/blogs/land-mayan-actor-aidan-gillen-visits-trocaire-project-guatemala

[iii] 2013-12-8_Letter sent to EU Ministers responsible for biofuels (2).jpg