Environmental Groups Condemn IPCC Call Biofuels


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

MAY 4, 2007
2:16 PM
CONTACT: BioFuels Watch
Almuth Ernsting, Biofuelwatch, UK: +44 -(0)1224 324797

IPCC Assessment report: Environmental Groups Condemn IPCC Call For Large Scale 
Biofuels as a Climate Disaster In The Making

The IPCC Assessment Report Four has made a compelling case on what global 
warming means to the planet this century. It is the IPCC´s strongest warning yet
that drastic cuts in carbon emissions are vital if we are to avoid a 
catastrophic acceleration of climate change. Environmental groups are, however, 
deeply concerned that the IPCC's Summary for Policy Makers on climate 
mitigation, released earlier today, includes a recommendation for large- scale 
expansion of biofuels from monocultures, including from GM crops, even though 
monoculture expansion is a driving force behind the destruction of rainforests 
and other carbon sinks and reservoirs, thus accelerating climate change. The 
IPCC also recommend the expansion of large-scale agroforestry monoculture 
plantations. These plantations, which will include GM trees, are similarly 
linked to ecosystem destruction. Monoculture expansion is a major threat to the 
livelihoods and food sovereignty of communities many of which are already 
bearing the brunt of climate change disasters caused largely by the fossil fuel 
emissions of industrialised countries.

Almuth Ernsting of Biofuelwatch stated: "It is already clear that the burgeoning
demand for biofuels that has been created to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is 
actually increasing them by deforestation in the tropics and accelerating 
climate change. So far, only 1% of global transport fuel comes from biofuels, 
yet already biofuels cause steep rises in grain and vegetable oil prices, 
threatening the food security of poor people and spurring agricultural expansion
into forests and grasslands, on which we depend for a stable climate".

The IPCC recommend second generation GM biofuels, which are widely believed to 
be at least 10-15 years away from commercialisation. There are serious concerns 
about the risks involved in technologies which will rely heavily on GM microbes 
and fungi for the refining process, as well as GM crops and trees.

Mayer Hillman, senior fellow emeritus at Policy Studies Institute said: "There 
is an inherent and acutely serious problem within the report. On the one hand, 
it leaves us in no doubt to how vital conservation of the planet´s ecosystems 
and carbon sinks are to averting the worst predictions made in the previous 
sections of the report. On the other, it proposes the large scale use of the 
biosphere to satisfy demand in the transport and energy sectors." Simone Lovera,
managing coordinator of the Global Forest Coalition, a worldwide coalition of 
NGOs and Indigenous Peoples Organizations added: "It is difficult to see how an 
emphasis on protecting rainforests and curbing deforestation is compatible with 
using biofuels as a solution to climate change when there are no policy 
instruments that guarantee biofuel expansion without accelerating 

The IPCC report would appear to suggest that the climate can be stabilised at a 
safe level without reducing growth. The signatories to the press release believe
that only large-scale reductions in energy use in the industrial nations, 
together with investment in sustainable forms of renewable energy, such as wind 
and solar power, can avoid the worst impacts of climate change.


Almuth Ernsting, Biofuelwatch, UK: +44 -(0)1224 324797 (mornings and evenings); 
01224 553195 (afternoons).

Simone Lovera, Global Forest Coalition (Paraguay office) +595-(0)21-663654 
(English, Spanish and Dutch)

Anthony Jackson, Munlochy Vigil, UK +44-1381-610740

Helena Paul, Econexus,, UK +44-(0)20 7431 4357

1. For details of the signatory organisations see:
Global Forest Coalition: www.wrm.org.uy/gfc ;
Biofuelwatch: www.biofuelwatch.org.uk;
Global Justice Ecology Project: www.globaljusticeecology.org ;
Grupo de Reflexion Rural: www.grr.org.ar ;
Rettet den Regenwald e.V.: www.regenwald.org ;
Econexus: www.econexus.info;
Munlochy Vigil: www.munlochygmvigil.org.uk ;
Noah: www.noah.dk/english.html ;
Corporate Europe Observatory: www.noah.dk/english.html;
Gaia Foundation: http://www.gaiafoundation.org/

2. Indonesia´s biofuel plans, are set to expand Palm Oil production 43-fold 
[tinyurl.com/33lb7r] and threaten most of that country´s remaining rainforests 
and peatlands. If those plans are implemented, up to 50 billion tonnes of carbon
are likely to be released into the atmosphere. This is the equivalent of over 
six years of global fossil fuel burning would clearly stand in the way of our 
common objective of stabilizing the climate before feedback mechanisms make this

3. NASA have shown that the rate of Amazon deforestation directly correlates 
with the world market price of soya [tinyurl.com/2pfga4] That price is expected 
to rise sharply as demand for soya biodiesel grows. Soya expansion is linked to 
deforestation not just in the Amazon but also elsewhere, including the Pantanal,
South America´s Atlantic Forest and a portion of the Paranaense forest in 
Paraguay and North of Argentina. In Argentina, more than 500000 ht of forest 
land were converted to soya plantations between 1998 to 2002 

4. Governments like the Brazilian government claim that they will only expand on
degraded lands. The Brazilian National Agro-energy Plan has qualified no less 
than 200 million hectares of Brazilian territory as "degraded" and thus suitable
for the expansion of biofuel monocultures. However, most of these so-called 
"degraded" lands are either biologically rich dry forest or grassland ecosystems
that form the livelihood basis of Indigenous Peoples and other local 
communities, or lands that are used for cattle ranching or small-scale 
subsistence farming. If these lands are taken over by biofuel plantations, 
cattle ranches and small farms will be forced to move further into the Amazon 
and Atlantic forests and other precious ecosystems, causing accelerated 

5. From The UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Report: "human actions are 
depleting Earth´s natural capital, putting such strain on the environment that 
the ability of the planet´s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no 
longer be taken for granted. At the same time, the assessment shows that with 
appropriate actions it is possible to reverse the degradation of many ecosystem 
services over the next 50 years, but the changes in policy and practice required
are substantial and not currently underway." "Although individual ecosystem 
services have been assessed previously, the finding that 60% of a group of 24 
ecosystem services examined by the MA are being degraded is the first 
comprehensive audit of the status of Earth´s natural capital." 

6. The main GM crops (soya, maize and oilseed rape) are already being used for 
biofuels, leading to competition between food/animal feed and fuel production, 
notably with maize in the US. There is strong evidence [tinyurl.com/35o36j] of 
the genetically modified RR soya undermining food sovereignty and security in 
Argentina and being linked to accelerated deforestation and biodiversity losses,
including in the Gran Chaco forest, which remained fairly intact prior to the 
advent of GM soya. GM soya depends on widespread use of pesticides, which 
encourages herbicide-resistant weeds. For further information about the negative
impacts of GM crops, including cross pollination and GM contamination, see 
www.econexus.info and www.gmfreeze.org .

7. The US Department of Energy website [tinyurl.com/2phn7z] details the 
fundamental barriers to producing cellulosic ethanol which yields more energy 
than is used in the refining process. It is not known whether those barriers can
ever be overcome. The aim of cellulosic ethanol research is to create GM plants 
with reduced lignin, and to create enzymes through GM technologies which can 
effectively break down cellulose and hemicellulose, fundamental building blocks 
of plants, on which all higher life forms depend. No risk assessment has ever 
been carried out. For further information, see tinyurl.com/2vhzow.


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