Will EU scrap biofuels incentives for food security?

The European Union uses biofuel to meet its 2020 renewable energy targets. United Nations special rapporteur will meet with the European Parliament on June 19 to reiterate his concerns on the impact of biofuels policy on global food security. Photo by: European Commission

The United Nations’ special rapporteur on the right to food is set to meet with members of the European Parliament on Wednesday in a push to convince them to end public incentives relating to the use of food crop-based biofuels to meet EU greenhouse gas emissions target.

In the closed-door meeting, Olivier De Schutter is expected to reiterate his concerns on the impact of the bloc’s Renewable Energy Directive on global food security, which he laid out in a 7-point letter in April addressed to the European Commission, the Parliament and EU member states.

In the letter, De Schutter mentioned land grabs, increased competition for resources, forced evictions and rising food prices. As for the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions target, he said: “The success of the policy in achieving this aim is ambiguous.”

“Biofuels derived from palm oil, soybean and rapeseed produce more greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuels once their indirect land-use change side-effects are taken into account,” he explained.

The meeting comes as different EU committees start to vote on the European Commission’s proposal last year to limit the contribution of conventional biofuels — or those produced from food crops — under the directive to 5 percent, down from the original 10 percent target.

The transport and international trade committees have already voted on Tuesday: they did not agree with the 5 percent cap. Next up on Thursday are the industry, research and energy committee.

In a report released last year by Oxfam, which has been advocating strongly against the policy, the organization offered several alternatives for the European Union to meet its targets, such as promoting the use of electric cars or setting efficiency standards for automobile manufacturers across Europe.

Still, it may not be an easy decision for MEPs who are expected to vote on the proposal in plenary in September. They are faced with a policy that many organizations argue is threatening global food security — and therefore undermines its development initiatives in developing countries — while at the same time have to make sure Europe meets its emissions pledge.

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About the author

  • Ravelo jennylei

    Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.