More than 30 groups from around the world have come together to demand a moratorium on the EU's move towards sourcing biofuels from large-scale monocultures.
In March 2007, EU leaders committed to a 10% share of biofuels in transport by 2020. Even US plane manufacturer Boeing plans to fly aircraft on a 50% biofuel blend. However, concerns have arisen over the environmental impact of bio-fuel production methods.
Presenting their case at the European Parliament on 26 and 27 June, the signatories warn that producing biofuel for EU markets will accelerate climate change, destroy biodiversity, and uproot local communities.
"Far from reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, Europe's biofuel policy threatens to accelerate global warming by destroying tropical and sub-tropical forests and peatlands, which are amongst the world's most important carbon sinks," says Almuth Ernsting, of Biofuelwatch.
Moreover, the group do not believe that the certification projects currently being drafted by the EU will be able to prevent such damage.
Nina Holland from Corporate Europe Observatory claims that the Commission's plan contains "no proposals at all which would guarantee sustainability". In the absence of such a guarantee, "we need a moratorium on biofuel support, incentives and imports" she adds.
Supporting the Commission's policy on biofuels, the European agricultural association COPA-COGECA states: "Despite the substantial opportunities to reduce C02 emissions by developing more effective fuels and transport systems, the objectives of EU policy to combat climate change can only be reached by rapidly introducing bio-fuels in all member states."
COPA-COGECA believes that biofuels have a positive influence on biodiversity. Pointing out that the EU's bio-diesel production is based on 50% rapeseed, they claim that "rapeseed cultivation improves crop rotation and enhances biodiversity".
Meanwhile "EU bio-diesel production helps improve EU independence in fossil fuels, while contributing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions," they further state.
Supporting the Commission, Dirk Carrez – EuropaBio public policy director – states: "Even with strict environmental constraints, Europe has and will continue to have access to sufficient biomass allowing up to one quarter of all transportation fuel to come from biofuels in 2030."
Moreover, he believes: "The unsustainable use of land for the production of biofuels can be avoided if efforts are concentrated on raising the yields of existing agricultural land instead of widespread deforestation."
"The development of biofuels has a large potential for developing countries and will create many local jobs," adds Carrez.