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BirdLife welcomes FAO report on bioenergy

…negative impacts on the environment highlighted…

BirdLife International has welcomed the launch of a report that highlights the increasing international recognition that while growth in bioenergy offers new opportunities for sustainable development, it also carries significant environmental risks.

The launch took place at the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) conference on World Food Security: the Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy in Rome, Italy. Entitled Bioenergy, food security and sustainability, the report cautions that with the use of current technologies and set policies, the growth in liquid biofuels is contributing to negative impacts on the environment and food security and is leading to an increase in world food prices.

While governments, the private sector and civil society can take important measures to promote sustainable production of bioenergy, many challenges are global in nature and cannot be tackled without a concerted international response. The report suggests that “an international approach is needed to address the full spectrum of bioenergy applications including, most urgently, liquid biofuels for transport”.

Bioenergy production affects the environment at the local and global levels, impacting land and water resources, biodiversity and the global climate. The threat to biodiversity is associated primarily with land-use change. When areas such as tropical forests are converted for biofuel production, the loss of biodiversity is significant. A further concern is the introduction of invasive species for biofuel production. “BirdLife welcomes the cautioning message of the FAO report. In addition to playing a role in the current increase of food prices, biofuels often fail to deliver greenhouse gas savings, with some being even more polluting than fossil fuels”, said Marco Lambertini, Director of Network and Programme, BirdLife International.

“The need for more land for biofuel crop expansion, increases the pressure on natural habitat. This is leading to large-scale deforestation in the tropics with an immense loss of biodiversity and ecological services, and emitting large volumes of CO2, contributing to global warming."

Even when crops do not directly encroach on natural habitats, the diversion of commodities from the food to the biofuels market means that prices increase, stimulating agricultural expansion elsewhere.

The nature of industrial biofuels production means that most feedstocks are likely to be grown on large scale industrial plantations. The current and past experience with the expansion of soy, palm oil, sugar cane and other such plantations in the developing world suggests that it will be accompanied by widespread environmental destruction and social injustice or violations of land use rights such as the forced eviction of native peoples and subsistence farmers off their land.

4th July 2014