Friends of the Earth warns that aviation biofuel target risks food price rises

June 22nd, 2011 by Friends of the Earth

Plans announced by the European aviation industry on 22 June 2011 to fuel its planes with two million tonnes of biofuels by 2020, has been criticised by Friends of the Earth.

The announcement, which follows expert warnings about the impact of biofuels on food prices and world hunger, comes as G20 ministers meet in Paris to discuss ways to tackle food price volatility.

Virgin Atlantic takes off from Gatwick airport on 18 November 2010. Virgin Atlantic has carried out test flights using various blends of biofuel (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

The environmental charity warned that increased biofuel-use could have major social and environmental impacts and said it would distract from real action to tackle the impact of aviation on climate change.

Research by Friends of the Earth Europe shows that meeting the aviation industry’s target could require three and a half million hectares of land every year to grow biofuel crops – an area the size of Belgium. It could increase land grabbing by foreign companies in developing countries where biofuels are already competing with food crops for farmland, increasing food prices, and worsening hunger.

Friends of the Earth warned that greenhouse gas emissions caused during biofuel production, through indirect land use change (the displacement of farming activity into forests), could actually increase emissions from aviation.

Friends of the Earth’s biofuels campaigner Kenneth Richter said “putting biofuels in our planes flies in the face of expert warnings about the impact these crops have on people and the environment.

“Our insatiable drive for biofuels is already causing brutal land grabs, trashing rainforests and sending global food prices soaring – using them in planes will make matters worse and could actually increase carbon emissions from aviation.

“We can’t rely on technological fixes to cut emissions quickly – what we urgently need is bold international action to tackle climate change and protect the world’s most vulnerable people.

“The UK Government should scrap its support for biofuels and take active steps to cut aviation emissions, such as ruling out future airport expansion and replacing air passenger duty with a per plane tax to help ensure planes fly full.”

G20 agriculture Ministers are meeting on 22 and 23 June 2011 in Paris to discuss a recent report by the World Bank, IMF and other international organisations which recommends that policies supporting biofuels be scrapped because of their impact on food prices and world poverty. It comes in the same week as the Paris air show – the biggest aviation event of the year.

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