Massive subsidies for biofuels ‘disastrous’

THE ECOLOGIST

Small-scale biofuels would reduce carbon emissions and help avert poverty in poorer countries, says Christian Aid report

Biofuels are not only causing deforestation but also fuelling poverty, according to a report from Christian Aid.

It says subsidy-driven support from the US and EU had been ‘disastrous’ and was fuelling ‘hunger, severe human rights abuses and environmental destruction’.

It highlighted the forced displacement of small farmers from their land in Colombia, deforestation and poor labour rights on sugar plantations in Brazil and food price rises in Central America.

The report warned that the problems could be repeated very shortly in Africa where large scale plantations of the oilseed crop jatropha are being established.

Instead of providing billions of dollars to industry, the report says governments should support small-scale biofuel production that would help provide clean energy off-grid to people in poorer countries.

‘The current approach to biofuels has been disastrous,’ says Christian Aid climate advocacy specialist, Eliot Whittington, the report’s author.

‘Policymakers should urgently rethink their entire approach to biofuels, to ensure that only crops and fuels which will achieve their social and environmental goals receive government backing.

‘Christian Aid believes that the best approach to biofuels is to grow them on a small scale and process them locally to provide energy for people in the surrounding community,’ adds Whittington.

‘This can also increase rural people’s incomes and has the potential to actually increase soil fertility and moisture retention without compromising people’s food security.’

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