(Reuters) – European plans to promote biofuels will drive farmers to convert 69,000 square km of wild land into fields and plantations, depriving the poor of food and accelerating climate change, a report warned on Monday.
The impact equates to an area the size of the Republic of Ireland.
As a result, the extra biofuels that Europe will use over the next decade will generate between 81 and 167 percent more carbon dioxide than fossil fuels, says the report.
Nine environmental groups reached the conclusion after analysing official data on the European Union’s goal of getting 10 percent of transport fuel from renewable sources by 2020.
But the European Commission’s energy team, which originally formulated the goal, countered that the bulk of the land needed would be found by recultivating abandoned farmland in Europe and Asia, minimising the impact.
New science has emerged this year casting doubt on the sustainability of the 10 percent goal, but EU energy officials have argued that only around two thirds of that target will be met through biofuels, with the balance being vehicles powered by renewable electricity.
But 23 of the EU’s 27 member states have now published their national strategies for renewable energy, revealing that fully 9.5 percent of transport fuel will be biofuel in 2020, 90 percent of which will come from food crops, the report says.
The EU’s executive Commission is now considering whether to tweak legislation to take account of the emerging science.