Biofuels moratorium

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Biofuels > Voices > Moratorium

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Various organizations and individuals have suggested or called for a moratorium, or suspension of activity, on the further development of biofuels. These have included the following:


George Monbiot (Journalist)

In an article in the Guardian newspaper (UK) on 27 March 2007, entitled "If we want to save the planet, we need a five-year freeze on biofuels", British journalist and commentator George Monbiot stated that

"It used to be a matter of good intentions gone awry. Now it is plain fraud. The governments using biofuel to tackle global warming know that it causes more harm than good. But they plough on regardless....
So what's wrong with these programmes? Only that they are a formula for environmental and humanitarian disaster. In 2004 I warned, on these pages, that biofuels would set up a competition for food between cars and people. The people would necessarily lose: those who can afford to drive are richer than those who are in danger of starvation. It would also lead to the destruction of rainforests and other important habitats.
We need a moratorium on all targets and incentives for biofuels, until a second generation of fuels can be produced for less than it costs to make fuel from palm oil or sugar cane. Even then, the targets should be set low and increased only cautiously. I suggest a five-year freeze."



On or around 27 June 2007, UK NGO EcoNexus issued a Call for an immediate moratorium on EU incentives for agrofuels, EU imports of agrofuels and EU agroenergy monocultures which was endorsed by several dozen organizations, including AG Kleinstlandwirtschaft (Germany), All Nepal Peasants' Federation, Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union –APVVU (India), Base Investigaciones Sociales (Paraguay), Biofuelwatch, Corporate Europe Observatory, FERN, Global Justice Ecology Project, GRAIN, Pesticide Action Network, Asia and the Pacific, Pro REGENWALD, the World Rainforest Movement, and others. The call for a moratorium read in part:

"The undersigned call for an immediate moratorium on EU incentives for agrofuels and agroenergy from large-scale monocultures including tree plantations and a moratorium on EU imports of such agrofuels. This includes the immediate suspension of all targets, incentives such as tax breaks and subsidies which benefit agrofuels from large-scale monocultures, including financing through carbon trading mechanisms, international development aid or loans from international finance organisations such as the World Bank....
The moratorium called for by the signatories will apply only to agrofuels from large-scale monocultures (and GM biofuels) and their trade. It does not include biofuels from waste, such as waste vegetable oil or biogas from manure or sewage, or biomass grown and harvested sustainably by and for the benefit of local communities, rather than on large-scale monocultures. A moratorium on large-scale agrofuels and their trade could favour the development of truly sustainable bioenergy strategies to the benefit of local communities - as opposed to the financial benefit of the export-oriented industries....
Agrofuels have not been shown to mitigate global warming; they actually threaten to accelerate it. The undersigned support urgent cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, based on climate science assessments, which involve a drastic overall reduction in energy use in industrialised countries, strict energy efficiency standards, and support for truly renewable forms of energy, such as sustainable wind and solar energy, as well as the protection of ecosystems and carbon stores."

This statement also challenged the usefulness of biofuels certification, stating:

"...a number of different initiatives have been started up to develop 'sustainability certification schemes'. The undersigned organisations regard certification schemes, whether voluntary or mandatory, to be incapable of effectively addressing serious and potentially irreversible damage from agrofuel production, the main reasons being:
  • Macro-level impacts such as the displacement/relocation of production to lands outside the scope of the certification schemes cannot be addressed through these schemes. Likewise, certification cannot deal with other macro-level impacts like the competition with food production, and access to land and other natural resources.
  • The development of such criteria has to date failed to ensure that communities most directly affected by agrofuel production are included in the discussion and fully consulted from the outset, or to comply with basic procedural requirements ensuring Free Prior and Informed Consent of indigenous peoples whose lands will be affected.
  • The development of agrofuels is proceeding far more quickly than certification can be implemented.
  • In many countries, conditions are lacking to ensure the implementation or monitoring of such safeguards, or accountability for those responsible for violating them."


  • Three nails in the coffin: the G8’s contribution to the global food crisis, 3 July 2008 press release by ActionAid: "ActionAid's new report, Cereal Offenders, charges that G8 leaders are single-mindedly pursuing policies and practices around biofuels, agricultural aid and climate change that are fuelling the global food crisis."
    • "ActionAid says that the voracious demand for biofuels is largely a consequence of the targets and subsidies that the rich world has established to build energy security....The result of this, according to ActionAid, is that around 260 million people are either hungry or at risk of hunger because of biofuels."
    • ActionAid calls on the G8 to "Remove all biofuels subsidies and targets, and support a five year moratorium on the diversion of arable land into biofuel mono-cropping."
    • Download the ActionAid report, Cereal Offenders (PDF file)

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