Chapter 3.png
  • Leading world organisations warn on biofuels

    A report by a coalition of leading inter-governmental organisations has called for an end to all subsidies and targets for biofuels. The report, whose backers include the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organisation and the OECD, also calls for an acceleration in research into alternative ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and securing energy supplies.

    At a time when the EU’s biofuels target (that 10% of all transport fuels should come from renewable sources by 2020) is coming under strong attack, this bluntly worded report carries significant weight. Entitled ‘Price Volatility in Food and Agricultural Markets’, it has been leaked by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development.

    It calls on the group of 20 leading world governments to ‘remove provisions of current national policies that subsidise (or mandate) biofuels production or consumption’. It goes on to ask governments to:

    • Open international markets so that renewable fuels and feed stocks can be produced where it is economically, environmentally and socially feasible to do so, and traded more freely.
    • Accelerate scientific research on alternative paths to reduced carbon emissions and to improved sustainability and energy security.
    • Encourage more efficient energy use, including in agriculture itself, without drawing on finite resources, including those needed for food production.

    For many of the organisations that have put their name to this report, this is their first explicit positioning against biofuels targets.

    The report makes provision for a situation in which G-20 governments reject its recommendations. It says they should ‘develop contingency plans to adjust (at least temporarily) policies that stimulate biofuel production or consumption (in particular mandatory obligations) when global markets are under pressure and food supplies are endangered’.

    The report is available at

    A British institute has described the biofuels targets in the EU’s renewable energy directive as ‘unethical’. The Nuffield Council on Bioethics, an independent body that debates ethical issues in biology and medicine, has been studying biofuels for 18 months. It recommends the EU’s targets should be suspended until new safeguards are put in place to protect human rights and the environment when biofuel crops are grown.