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17 NOVEMBER 2007

Governments must reject ‘Biofuels’ and other False Solutions to Climate Change

resize-7In reaction to today’s launch of the synthesis report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in Spain, the Global Forest Coalition, a worldwide coalition of NGOs and Indigenous Peoples’ Organisations, called upon governments to reject so-called ‘biofuels’ and other false solutions to climate change like carbon trading. It is now becoming clear that these solutions may in fact make climate change worse, not better, and that they have many other serious social and environmental impacts. (1)

The IPCC report again highlights that climate change is already having devastating impacts upon the economies and livelihoods of people all over the world. Indigenous Peoples and other vulnerable and economically marginalized peoples suffer the most dramatic consequences of climate change, as they are directly dependent upon the forests, drylands and polar ecosystems that are being destroyed by droughts, forest fires and other effects of global warming. However, these communities are also the main victims of the false solutions that some governments and high profile advocates are proposing, like large-scale ‘biofuels’, (or ‘agrofuels’ as most social movements refer to them) and carbon investments in forestry projects.

Dr. Miguel Lovera, chairperson of the Global Forest Coalition, said:
“Here in Paraguay the soya boom that has been triggered by agrofuels means that farmers are now racing to clear the forests and plant soy. What is the point of planting a crop that is supposed to help stop climate change, when it involves ripping out the lungs of the world and destroying the homes and livelihoods of our forest peoples, including our last communities of Indigenous Peoples living in voluntary isolation? The IPCC recognizes that conserving forests is one of the most effective and economically efficient ways of mitigating climate change but governments don’t seem to be listening: instead of banning deforestation, they are actually subsidizing the production of these agrofuels crops which are making deforestation worse all over the world. ” (2)

In Mato Grosso in the Brazilian Amazon, renewed soy expansion caused deforestation to increase by around 84% between September 2006 and September 2007. Soy expansion in South America is mainly caused by the ethanol boom in the US, which has triggered US soy farmers to switch to corn.

“As the main problems are caused by the indirect impacts of agrofuels, proposals to certify ‘sustainable biofuels’ just won’t work, as they can’t control these indirect impacts” emphasizes Dr. Rachel Smolker of the Global Justice Ecology Project in Vermont (US). 

“Second generation agrofuels, like genetically modified trees, will also cause a myriad of environmental and social problems, including the replacement of forests with vast monocultures of tree plantations, planted to fuel cars” she adds.

The Global Forest Coalition also opposes proposals to finance reduced deforestation through the international carbon market, as such offsets do not contribute anything to mitigating climate change: every ton carbon stored in forests will imply an extra ton of carbon emissions in the North. Moreover, they form an inequitable and unpredictable source of financial support. Carbon offset projects in countries like Uganda have already led to devastating impacts on local communities. (3)

“Many Indigenous Peoples in the Pacific face the possibility of losing everything in a short space of time – their homes, their territories and their livelihoods – , because of rising sea-levels. We insist that governments do something now to stop this ethnocide. They urgently need to invest in real forest conservation (4), sustainable transport systems and solar and wind energy” stresses Sandy Gauntlett, chairperson of the Pacific Indigenous Peoples Environment Coalition.

For more information, please contact:
– Dr. Miguel Lovera, Global Forest Coalition, Paraguay, tel: +595-21-663654 and mobile: +595-971-201957 (English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Dutch)
– Sandy Gauntlett, Pacific Indigenous Peoples Environment Coalition, New Zealand, tel: + 64 9 8349529
– Anne Petermann (mobile +1 802 578 0477) and Dr. Rachel Smolker, Global Justice Ecology Project, USA, tel: +1 802-482-2689, globalecology@gmavt.net and rsmolker@gjep2020.local
– Ronnie Hall, campaigns coordinator, Global Forest Coalition, UK, tel: +44 7967 017281, ronnihall@googlemail.com

(1) See also http://www.globalforestcoalition.org/img/userpics/File/publications/From%20Meals%20to%20Wheels%20The%20Social%20and%20Ecological%20Catastrophe%20o.pdf
For an overview of social and environmental impacts of agrofuels,  http://www.globalforestcoalition.org/img/userpics/File/publications/Potential%20Policy%20Approaches%20and%20Positive%20Incentives.pdf
For an analysis of the possible impacts of the inclusion of avoided deforestation in global carbon markets and http://www.wrm.org.uy/countries/Ecuador/book2.pdf
For an example of the impacts of a voluntary forest-related carbon offset project in Ecuador.

(2) In 2007 alone, soy monocultures expanded from 2.4 million to 2.8 million hectares in Paraguay. The price rise of around 23% on the international markets is considered to be one of the major factors. See also www.lasojamata.org for more information on the environmental and social impacts of soy production.

(3) The tree planting project in the Mount Elgon national park financed by the FACE Foundation to offset CO2 emissions from air travellers and Dutch electricity companies led to major negative social and environmental consequences around the park, with communities that were living in the area being forcibly resettled. Lack of agricultural land and fuelwood outside the park led to increased forest degradation, land slides, hunger, poverty, prostitution and HIV/AIDS. In 2005, a Ugandan Court ruled that the resettlement was illegal, and in 2007 returning local people cut down 100,000 of the newly planted trees to create space for their farms again. For more information, go to http://www.wrm.org.uy/countries/Uganda/book.html

(4) The Framework Convention on Climate Change obliges all governments to conserve forests and other carbon sinks, and developed countries to provide new and additional resources to enable developing countries to conserve their forests. See also http://www.globalforestcoalition.org/img/userpics/File/publications/Report%20on%20Independent%20Monitoring%20article%204.1.pdf for an independent review of the implementation of the forest-related clauses of the FCCC.

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