By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
According The Telegraph the United Nations will officially warn that growing crops to make “green” biofuel harms the environment and drives up food prices, The Telegraph can disclose. A leaked draft of a UN report condemns the widespread use of biofuels made from crops as a replacement for petrol and diesel. It says that biofuels, rather than combating the effects of global warming, could make them worse.
The draft report represents a dramatic about-turn for the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Its previous assessment on climate change, in 2007, was widely condemned by environmentalists for giving the green light to large-scale biofuel production. The latest report instead puts pressure on world leaders to scrap policies promoting the use of biofuel for transport. The summary for policy makers states: “Increasing bioenergy crop cultivation poses risks to ecosystems and biodiversity.”
The report into the impact of man-made climate change is the most authoritative of its kind. For the first time, it considered the impact of biofuels on the environment. Biofuels were once billed as the green alternative to fossil fuels, but environmental campaigners have voiced concern about them for some time. They note that growing biofuel crops on a large scale requires either the conversion of agricultural land used for food crops or the destruction of forests to free up land, possibly offsetting any reduction in carbon emissions from the use of biofuels. Other concerns include increased stress on water supplies and rising corn prices as a result of increased demand for the crop, which is fermented to produce biofuel.
A European Union directive set a target for biofuels used in transport to double to 10 per cent by 2020, although it has limited the amount from food crops to 5 per cent.
Referring in part to deforestation, it says any benefit of biofuel production on carbon emissions “may be offset partly or entirely for decades or centuries by emissions from the resulting indirect land-use changes”. On biofuel production from corn, it adds: “Resulting increases in demand for corn contribute to higher corn prices and may indirectly increase incidence of malnutrition in vulnerable populations.”
An IPCC spokesman said she could not comment until the final report is published on March 31.
This certainly underscores the need for consideration of all matters and the notion of the law of unintended consequences. While the effort to produce biofuels for purposes of the environment, cost, and geopolitical issues care must be exercised when making public policy.
By Darren Smith
Photo Credit: Mariordo Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz (Fuel Pump)
The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.