Stop EU’s biofuel policy fuelling deforestation

December 10, 2021

Current EU biofuel policies are driving up the demand for soy, incentivising destruction of the Amazon rainforest and other vulnerable ecosystems. EU lawmakers can stop this with the stroke of a pen.

In Brazil, massive expansion of agriculture is driving deforestation to new heights. This rampant destruction generates enormous carbon emissions while doing irrevocable harm to the planet’s biodiversity.

The problem is especially dire in the eastern Amazon rainforest and the neighbouring Cerrado region, where vast forest areas are cleared to make way for soy plantations. In addition to storing immense quantities of carbon, these forest ecosystems directly and indirectly support the livelihoods of millions across South America. Hence, both people and the climate will suffer if this destruction is allowed to continue.

Change soy policy to stop ecological catastrophe

The EU has so far neglected to put regulations or guidelines in place for using and importing soy-derived biofuels. We call on the EU to acknowledge soy as a high deforestation-risk commodity, reducing the demand for soy in one of the world’s biggest economies.

With the stroke of a pen, the EU can stop funding the destruction of vital ecosystems through short-sighted biofuel policies.

The link between EU biofuel policy and deforestation

In a bid to cut emissions from the transport sector, the EU seeks to increase biofuel use across road, air, and sea transport. But biofuel production entails significant environmental risks of its own. Palm oil-based biofuels, for example, will largely be phased out across the EU due to the role palm oil production plays in rainforest destruction.

However, no such policy is in place for soy-based biofuels, despite expanding soy plantations being one of the key causes of deforestation in both the Amazon rainforests and the forests and savannahs of Cerrado.

The phase out of palm oil will simply see an increase in the use of soy in the EU’s biofuels mix.

In a series of studies, the European Commission itself has shown that the use of both palm and soy-oil biofuels results in net emissions increases instead of reductions. By ignoring this fact, the EU’s approach to biofuels risks causing devastating harm to large swaths of South America’s natural ecosystems.

In other words: the EU’s biofuel policy causes widespread ecological destruction, pushing some of our most important ecosystems towards their breaking point.

Pushing ecosystems towards collapse

Decades of deforestation has put the Amazon on a course towards ecological breakdown, also known as its ‘tipping point’.

Increasing floods, droughts and fires are a clear warning sign of the Amazon being very near this point of no return or even right at it. As much of the southern part of South America depends on the Amazon for its fresh water supply, these extreme weather events have a massive impact on the people living in the Amazon, but also as far away from it as Argentina. Worse, they also increase the release of carbon from the area, accelerating climate change.

If this vicious cycle is allowed to continue, up to two thirds of the Amazon will turn into savannah. The savannah now located south of the Amazon, the Cerrado, will turn into desert.

If we let this happen, millions of people will be left without a living. No water and no way to grow their food. The very industry that causes this destruction – cattle and soy production – will collapse.

A rapid end to deforestation and massive efforts to restore part of what has been lost can still bring us back from this apocalyptic scenario.

Cutting deforestation out of EU biofuels can and must be a first emergency measure.

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