Embargo: For immediate release, Thursday 28 January 2010
Contact: Marie Reynolds, Friends of the Earth press office, 0207 566 1649
RENEWABLE FUELS AGENCY REPORT REVEALS SHOCKING IMPACT OF UK BIOFUELS
Commenting on a report published by the Renewable Fuels Agency (RFA) today (28 January 2010), which shows just 4 per cent of biofuel imported for use in the UK meets the environmental sustainability standard set by the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RFTO).
Friends of the Earth's biofuels campaigner Kenneth Richter said:
"In its first annual report the RFA paints a shocking picture of the true impact of biofuels being produced in the UK for use in our cars.
"Just four per cent of biofuels imported from abroad are sustainably produced – the vast majority are causing deforestation and land use changes that are increasing climate changing emissions and pushing people off their land.
"Biofuels are not the answer to our energy woes - the UK should scrap its biofuels targets.
"We must focus our attention on developing greener transport alternatives to cars, such as fast and affordable rail services and cycling and walking."
Notes to editors:
1. The report finds that only 4 per cent of biofuels imported for use in the UK – and 20 per cent of all biofuels used in the UK – meet the RTFO environmental sustainability standard.
The Renewable Fuels Agency says this "provides little assurance about the way the feedstock was grown and any environmental and social impacts it may have had."
2. In a case study looking at the effects of the production of Malaysian palm oil – which is imported to the UK – the report found that:
• It will take 130 years to pay back the carbon emissions caused by deforestation to make way for oil palm plantations in the area;
• Oil palm plantations that have required land clearance are linked to water pollution and soil erosion;
• Affected communities will typically lose some or all of their traditional means of support from the forest, becoming more vulnerable to food and financial insecurity;
• Land conflicts in the state of Sarawak are almost ubiquitous on new estates;
• "The evidence seems compelling that increased demand for palm oil biodiesel is a contributory driver to deforestation and peat degradation in parts of Malaysia."
3. Although the report notes a 46 per cent reduction in carbon emissions under the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation, this figure does not take into account emissions caused by direct and indirect changes in land use that have occurred to make way for biofuel crops. 42 per cent of land use before biofuel crops were planted was stated as "unknown".
4. Nearly two years after the Government's own Gallagher Review found that indirect land use changes caused by the drive for biofuels were increasing carbon emissions, there is still no system in place to account for them. Indirect land use change includes, for example, the displacement of farmland being used for food production onto forest land. The Renewable Fuels Agency states that if indirect land use change was left unchecked, biofuels "could potentially cause an increase in overall carbon emissions rather than a reduction."
5. Friends of the Earth research in April 2009 showed that indirect land use changes as the result of biofuel production could have doubled the carbon emissions of the fossil fuels they replace - equivalent to putting half a million extra cars on the road - since a new law adding them to UK fuel came into force in April 2008.
6. Modelling by the UK Department for Transport estimates that by 2020 45 per cent of Europe's biodiesel could come from Malaysian and Indonesian palm oil, equalling additional demand for palm oil of approximately 14 billion litres (source: "Global and EU Biofuel Scenarios to 2020" presentation, Taro Hallworth, Department for Transport).
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