NEW BRIEFING: Flying in the face of the facts

20 June 2011

Aviation industry expected to launch biofuel targets as major international institutions recommend scrapping biofuel subsidies

Brussels/Paris, June 20, 2011 – European airlines fuelling aeroplanes with biofuels is greenwashing, and flies in the face of recommendations from major international institutions, Friends of the Earth Europe said today on the opening day of the Paris air show, Le Bourget.

The European aviation industry, with support from the European Commission, is expected to announce plans to use 2 million tonnes of bio-kerosene per year by 2020. [1] This could require up to 3.5 million hectares, an area the size of Belgium, to grow, with serious environmental implications. KLM and Virgin Atlantic have already carried out test flights with various blends of biofuel, and Lufthansa launches its first commercial flight this year. [2]

According to new analysis from Friends of the Earth Europe biofuels present the aviation industry with a convenient blind alley, facilitating the industry's expansion plans, avoiding pressure to reduce fuel use and diverting political attention from the real need to cut air travel in order to reduce climate change. [3]

Robbie Blake, biofuels campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said: "The European aviation industry is simply flying in the face of the facts. Biofuels exacerbate poverty and hunger, drive land-grabbing and deforestation, push up food prices, and threaten to make climate change worse, not better. These new biofuel targets offer a convenient smokescreen for aviation industry expansion, but not the genuine emission reductions needed."

This week, G20 Agriculture Ministers will be discussing measures to reduce pressure on rising food costs, including recommendations by the World Bank, WTO, UN, OECD and others to scrap biofuel subsidies and mandates because of their impact on world poverty and food prices. [4]

Europe's biofuel plans are causing social and environmental destruction. [5] Controversial crops to be included in the aviation biofuel mix include palm oil – the production of which is linked with tropical deforestation, irreparable biodiversity loss, and human rights abuses – and jatropha, promoted as a miracle crop, but in reality instrumental in driving land-grabs in India and Africa. [6]

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NOTES:

[1] The European Commission and Airbus together with the European Aviation Industry and European Biofuels producers are expected to launch the "European Advanced Biofuels Flightpath". Originally planned for the Paris Air show in Le Bourget at the Airbus Press Chalet on 22nd June at 14.30, this has subsequently been postponed until further notice.

[2] The German Government is contributing €5 million to the "FAIR" initiative (Future Aircraft Research) which is looking at biofuels, other alternative fuels and aircraft concepts. Of this €2.5 million will go to Lufthansa's "burnFAIR" project in which it plans to trial biofuel for six months in one engine of an aircraft flying the short Hamburg to Frankfurt route.

[3] "Flying in the face of facts: Greenwashing the aviation industry with biofuels", Friends of the Earth Europe's analysis on the impact of aviation biofuels is released today and is available for download here: http://www.foeeurope.org/publications/2011/FoEE_Flying_in_the_face_of_facts_June2011.pdf

[4] The FAO, IFAD, IMF, OECD, UNCTAD, WFP, the World Bank and the WTO's policy paper "Price Volatility in Food and Agricultural Markets: Policy Responses", published in May 2011, contains the following "Recommendation 6: G20 governments remove provisions of current national policies that subsidize (or mandate) biofuels production or consumption". The paper is available for download here http://ictsd.org/downloads/2011/05/finalg20report.pdf

As reported in the Financial Times 9 June 2011 "Report urges end to G20 biofuel subsidies" http://on.ft.com/mg0XKv

[5] http://www.foeeurope.org/press/2010/Nov08_Europe%27s_biofuels_plans_driving_social_environmental_destruction.html

[6] http://www.foeeurope.org/agrofuels/FoEE_Africa_up_for_grabs_2010.pdf