IUCN voices concerns on biofuels

12 February 2008 | News story

In a letter to EU Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, IUCN has raised concerns that the mandatory targets for biofuels have been proposed ahead of the necessary scientific developments. New evidence published in the Magazine Science highlights the potentially damaging effects on the environment of promoting biofuel use.

“Such a policy risks promoting the rapid and unsustainable development of a global biofuel industry, thereby compromising effective climate change mitigation, while increasing the risk of significant biodiversity loss and threatening the livelihoods of local communities”, writes Tamás Marghescu, Regional Director for Europe. These effects would be inconsistent with the Commission’s international commitments including the Kyoto protocol, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the Millennium Development Goals.

In summary, IUCN recommends the following to ensure a coherent approach within the EU:

  • Market-based mechanisms could be used as incentives for a system of continuous improvement in the reduction of GHG emissions, with the proposed 35% as a minimum.
  • A calculation tool for GHG emissions, including those from land-use change, should be adopted for the EU biofuels policy. The Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB) is developing a tool for complete GHG calculations, based on tools being developed by other EU Member States.
  • The criteria should include landscape and ecosystem management approaches as promoted under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, incorporating also the concept of High Conservation Value Areas, to help ensure that biofuels contribute positively to ecosystems and livelihoods.
  • The EC should build on the work of Member States and the RSB who are developing more advanced criteria in a consultative process with stakeholders from producer countries to ensure harmonisation and effective implementation of the criteria.
  • The EC should provide the enabling legislative framework for pro-active measures to avoid risks of displaced agricultural production; alternative financing for ecosystem services and payments for avoided deforestation could be used as market mechanisms for internalising costs of displacement.

IUCN had earlier provided technical advice to the European Commission and the European Parliamen in the development of a sustainable biofuels system as part of the upcoming legislation on renewable energy.