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Labour calls for rethink on Biofuels target

14 Apr 2008

Calls by scientists at the European Environment Agency to suspend the EU target to increase the share of biofuels used in transport to 10 per cent, should be closely heeded by Ministers Gormley and Ryan, according to Labour Party environment spokesperson, Joanna Tuffy, TD.

These eminent scientists have concluded that this target may not deliver any environmental benefits at all, and indeed there fears that it could actually cause more harm than good. There is growing concern over the negative impacts of biofuel production on biodiversity, water and soil, both directly and through indirect land-use change at the global level because of competition with other land uses like food production.

We are already seeing the impact that biofuels are having on the cost of food. As more agriculture is given over to the production of these crops, less is available for the production of food. As a result, food prices, not just here in Ireland, but worldwide, are skyrocketing. Just this week we saw that the cost of basic foodstuffs have gone up by almost 10 per cent in the last 12 months - that is double the rate of inflation - hitting lower-income households particularly hard.

The plan to increase our reliance on biofuels sounds like the kind of idea that should work, but unfortunately it does not appear to stand up to environmental or economic scrutiny. It is time for Ministers Ryan and Gormley to accept this and to shift their emphasis to solutions that will actually benefit the environment. Unfortunately they seem to have painted themselves into a corner on this issue having sold biofuels to the electorate as some kind of panacea.

It is not enough for Ministers Gormley and Ryan to talk platitudes about "sustainable biofuels". According to the European Environment Agency Scientific Committee sustainable production outside the European Union is difficult to achieve and to monitor. The Government should take heed of the advice of the EEA Scientific Committee, as well as the concerns about the impact of biofuel policies on global food prices that have been expressed by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon. Ireland should suspend its commitments in relation to biofuels pending the comprehensive scientific review of the risks and benefits of biofuels that has been called for by the EEA Scientific Committee.

In the meantime the Government should do what could really make in roads into our rising transport emissions, that is fast-tracking key public transport projects.

Read more on EEA report here.


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