A group of 177 scientists in the Netherlands have written an open letter to economic affairs minister Erik Wiebes urging him to try to stop biofuels made from food crops being included in the EU’s sustainable development agenda.
The use of crop-based biofuels is a ‘false solution’ to climate problems, the scientists say, adding that: ‘we urgently implore you to acknowledge that blending food crops into fuel causes severe damage to climate, nature and communities.’
They point out that research carried out for the European Commission shows the mixture leads to increased greenhouse gas emissions and that biodiesel from food crops emits on average 1.8 times as much carbon dioxide as fossil fuels. This increases to three times more in the case of biodiesel made from palm oil.
‘Moreover, European policy leads to an increased demand for vegetable oils from food crops and therefore also to increasing demand for agricultural soil for these crops,’ they say. ‘To meet this demand, vulnerable ecosystems like tropical forests, wetlands and grasslands are being converted into vast monocultures.
‘This leads to biodiversity losses and increased vulnerability to droughts, floods, land degradation, surface water pollution, blurring of coastal waters and degradation of coral reefs, and also contributes to local climate extremes.’
Using crops for fuel is also forcing up food prices and pressuring local food production as small farmers become dependent on multinationals.
The scientists come from across all Dutch universities, including Wageningen University which focuses on agriculture.
The European parliament voted last month to include sustainable biofuels in new targets for sustainable energy and ministers will discuss the issue at their summit later this month.