Friday, 7 November 2008

Biofuel producers warn EU over "unjustifiably complex" sustainability rules

Biofuel producers warn EU over "unjustifiably complex" sustainability rules

Developing countries warn EU that any restrictions on biofuel imports designed to improve sustainability could lead to a complaint to the World Trade Organisation

Tom Young, BusinessGreen, 07 Nov 2008

Eight developing countries have written to the EU warning they will complain to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) if it passes proposed legislation designed to improve the environmental sustainability of biofuels by restricting the types of fuels the bloc imports.

The EU is considering legislation that is intended to ban the purchase of biofuels from energy crop plantations that are believed to harm the environment and lead to food shortages by displacing land used for food crops and contributing to rainforest deforestation.

Environmentalists have largely welcomed the proposals, which would ensure that only plantations that have been independently certified as meeting various environmental criteria would be able to sell resulting biofuels into the UK.

However, several developing countries that regard biofuels as a potential driver for economic growth are believed to be opposed to the measures, which they regard as unnecessarily restrictive.

Now, according to Reuter's reports eight countries – Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Malawi, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Indonesia and Malaysia – have written to the EU to protest against the proposals.

The letter, a copy of which has been seen by the news agency, claims that the new rules would "impose unjustifiably complex requirements on producers" and argues that environmental criteria "relating to land-use change will impinge disproportionately on developing countries".

It adds that "some of our countries don't exclude the possibility of defending their rights in the World Trade Organisation, as a last resort".
Under current EU proposals, member states would have to ensure that 10 per cent of all road transport fuel comes from renewable sources by 2020.
The target was expected to create a huge market for energy crop producers in the developing world and countries such as Indonesia and Brazil have invested heavily in developing biofuel plantations such as sugar cane, soya and palm oil.

However, a series of reports have claimed that many of these plantations are contributing to food shortages and, in cases where rainforest is cleared to make way for energy crops, are resulting in biofuels that boast higher carbon footprints than fossil fuels.

If a complaint were made to the World Trade Organisation, the body would not have the power to overturn EU legislation but it could call on the bloc to relax any restrictions in the interests of global trade. Developing economies could also respond to the EU measures with protectionist trade policies of their own.