The Biofuture Platform: neither clean nor green

Oil palm plantation Oil palms (© thonephoto/shutterstock.com)

Policymakers and industries in more than 20 countries have signed on to a “Biofuture Platform” that would use biofuels, bioplastics and biomaterials as an alternative to fossil fuels. The consequences for land, food production, ecosystems and human rights would be dire.

Call to action

To: the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Morocco, Mozambique, Netherlands, Paraguay, Philippines, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States and Uruguay

Reject the misguided Biofuture Platform and embrace real solutions such as reducing consumption, protecting ecosystems and promoting agroecology instead.

Read letter

To forestall the worst impacts of climate change, governments must immediately transition to renewable energy, end the overconsumption of energy and resources, and protect ecosystems like land and forests which are our best stores of carbon.

Right now, the renewable energy sector covers 10% of global energy consumption and the share is rising. But while most people think of renewable energy as wind and solar, burning wood and other biomass in fact accounts for more than half of the power generated.

Governments and international organizations are pushing biomass consumption to create a new “bioeconomy” with initiatives such as the “Biofuture Platform”. These not only promote the burning of biomass for power and heat as “modern bioenergy”, but also the production of bioplastics using agricultural raw materials.

Unfortunately, exchanging fossil fuels for biomass or agricultural commodities is anything but an environmentally and climate-friendly solution. The enormous quantities of wood and agricultural crops needed for this would mean burning the earth's forests in massive power plants and growing trees and crop plants such as oil palms on vast industrial monocultures.

  • Forests and trees store carbon over the long term. Burning wood is at least as bad for the climate as burning coal.

  • Industrial agricultural and tree plantations require huge tracts of land, leading to serious land conflicts and human rights violations.

  • Plantations threaten natural ecosystems, biodiversity, soils and water resources.

  • The “bioeconomy” would divert resources away from more environmentally friendly technologies such as wind and solar power.

Please speak out against this misguided initiative and sign our petition, which is backed by more than 80 international environmental organizations.

Back­ground

To see a comprehensive list of resources on biomass, visit:

http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/biomass-resources/resources-on-biomass/

To read more about biofuel:

https://www.transportenvironment.org/node/2563/publications

To read other resources on bioenergy and policy:

https://www.birdlife.org/europe-and-central-asia/policy/bioenergy
https://fern.org/resources?f%5B0%5D=relevant_campaigns_resources%3A171
http://www.wwf.eu/what_we_do/climate/renewables/eu_bioenergy_policy/

This petition is a joint initiative of the Forests, Climate, and Biomass Energy working group of the Environmental Paper Network. This working group is nurturing a global network of activists seeking to put forests and forest communities at the heart of climate action through well-informed, strategically targeted and co-ordinated campaigning on the biomass energy industry. We are working together as a global advocacy community to counter fake-scientific industry rhetoric that biomass energy is ‘carbon neutral’, all forest products are ‘renewable’ and biomass energy is a climate change solution.

If you are an NGO or civil society organization who is interested in joining, please contact peg.putt@gmail.com

Letter

To: the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Morocco, Mozambique, Netherlands, Paraguay, Philippines, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States and Uruguay

Following Brazil’s lead, 20 nations have signed onto a Biofuture Platform (http://biofutureplatform.org) that seeks to substitute our fossil-fuel based economy for an economy based on biofuels, biomass, and other crops. While eliminating fossil fuels is absolutely necessary to protect our planet, replacing fossil fuels with biomass is not the transition the world needs. Many governments already support the expansion of biofuels, including burning trees for electricity and liquid transportation fuels from sugarcane, corn, palm oil and soya among others.

The bioeconomy would expand to include using crops and trees for producing bioplastics, biochemicals and a whole suite of “bioproducts”. Collectively, this is referred to as a “bioeconomy” and falsely presented as a viable and sustainable low-carbon pathway. In reality, given the huge demand for land and water to grow biomass, the consequences would be dire: conversion of large areas of land to produce crops and trees, further degradation of remaining natural ecosystems and displacement of people and food production. The bioeconomy wins favor under the misguided belief that we can maintain economic growth and business as usual, just by substituting living for fossil fuels. 

A bioeconomy as envisioned in the Biofuture Platform would be:

**Bad for climate: The Biofuture Platform advocates switching to bioenergy and biomaterials for energy, transport and industry, ignoring the well-documented impacts of demand for crops and trees that would result in vast areas of land being converted. The science is by now clear that biofuels increase rather than decrease greenhouse gas emissions. Protecting and restoring ecosystems is far more effective, but cannot happen if large new demands for crops and wood exist.

**Bad for human rights: Large-scale biofuel production already has resulted in land grabs as well as violent evictions, displacement of food production and hunger due to rising food costs, undermining of food sovereignty and labor violations. The vast new demand for access to land to supply biomass for an entire bioeconomy would greatly worsen these impacts.

**Bad for biodiversity: Biodiverse forests and ecosystems would be cleared to make room for production of biomass, just as has already occurred with corn, sugarcane, palm oil and soya-based biofuels. To protect biodiversity we need to reduce, not increase our demand for land as well as decrease use of water, fertilizers and agrichemicals.

**Bad for real and effective solutions: The Biofuture Platform vision would encourage more subsidies for biofuels, diverting investment and attention from real and proven solutions that are urgently required if we are to prevent more climate catastrophe.

The undersigned groups and individuals call on the 20 countries and multilateral organizations that are signatories to the Biofuture Platform to end their support, and we advise that other governments refrain from joining in support of the Platform. We call instead for governments to propose meaningful and equitable responses to the climate crisis that respect human rights, focus on proven low-carbon technologies, reduce overconsumption and waste, and protect forests and other ecosystems.

Complete letter: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfBzGakopXAx0N6qQ3Bl1AM_fI7AFrk2OnnZqNADQd1YM2EHQ/viewform

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