Burning Land, Burning the Climate: The biofuel industry's capture of EU bioenergy policy

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There is overwhelming evidence of the harm caused by the European Union’s current bioenergy policy to people in developing countries, to the climate and to Europe’s own sustainable development. The policy is on a collision course with the Paris climate agreement and the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. This briefing follows the trail of destruction left by the policy on three continents. It assesses the extraordinary lobbying ‘firepower’ and powerful network of influence at the disposal of the European biofuel industry and its allies, which is blocking reform. In the past year alone, actors in the biofuel value chain – from feedstock growers to biofuel producers – spent over €14m and hired nearly 400 lobbyists. Biofuel producers spend as much on EU influencing as the tobacco lobby. EU decision makers must free themselves from the stranglehold of powerful corporate groups – and choose genuinely sustainable and renewable energy to meet their 2030 climate and energy goals.
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  OXFAM BRIEFING PAPER OCTOBER 2016 www.oxfam.org Lunjuk village, Indonesia, 2016. A local farmer was forced to put up barbed wire to protect his land after it was cleared to make way for a plantation supplying global palm oil company Wilmar. Photo: Kemal Jufri/Panos/OxfamAUS. BURNING LAND, BURNING THE CLIMATE The biofuel industry's capture of EU bioenergy policy There is overwhelming evidence of the harm caused by the European Union’s current bioenergy policy to people in developing countries, to the climate and to Europe’s own sustainable development. The policy  is on a collision course with the Paris climate agreement and United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. This briefing follows the trail of destruction left by the policy on three continents. It assesses the extraordinary lobbying ‘ firepower  ’ and powerful network of influence at the disposal of the European biofuel industry and its allies, which is blocking reform. In the past year alone, actors in the biofuel value chain  –  from feedstock growers to biofuel producers  –   spent over €14m and hired nearly 400 lobbyists. Biofuel producers spend as much on EU influencing as the tobacco lobby. EU decision makers must free themselves from the stranglehold of powerful corporate groups  –  and choose genuinely sustainable and renewable energy to meet their 2030 climate and energy goals.  2 SUMMARY The EU’s current bioenergy policy has left a trail of destruction around the planet. This briefing follows this trail on three continents. It analyses the corporate capture hampering the reform of this destructive policy. It proposes a way forward that would allow Europe to meet the challenge of sustainable development in the context of climate change. FUELLING DESTRUCTION The prospects of a fast-growing European market for crops to produce fuel have sparked an initial wave of speculative investments. In Africa, many of these investments have failed and harmed the development prospects of affected communities. In Tanzania, Dutch company BioShape Holding BV acquired 34,000 hectares of land in 2008 to grow jatropha in order to supply ‘green’ electricity and biodiesel to  the Dutch and Belgian markets. Four  communities were deprived of their customary rights to the land. The project has failed, the investors have left, but local communities are still struggling to recover their land and rebuild their livelihoods. The same policy- driven market forces have resulted in an explosion of the EU’s imports of palm oil to fuel European cars and generate electricity. As a result, a policy supposed to mitigate climate change has contributed to environmental destruction in Indonesia amounting to a climate catastrophe. At the same time, the livelihoods of communities in remote areas of the country are threatened by the abusive practices of companies operating at the far end of the supply chain of European biofuel producers. On the island of Sumatra, PT Sandabi Indah Lestari (PT SIL)  –  a supplier of Wilmar International, which itself supplies leading biodiesel producers in Europe  –  obtained a concession to 2,812 hectares in 2011, and has since violently prevented community access to 1,000 hectares set aside by the local government for community use.  A similar pattern of destruction is now emerging in Latin America. Indigenous and smallholder farmers’ communities of the Peruvian Amazon now live on the palm oil frontier, and are being dispossessed of their ancestral forests and land by some of the same actors responsible for massive deforestation and illegal land deals in Southeast Asia. The Peruvian government has announced the capacity for 1.5 million hectares of land for oil palm cultivation to meet rising global demand. In Ucayali, a region covering the central portion of the Peruvian  Amazon, the Melka Group  –  a conglomerate of companies whose founder has been associated with massive deforestation and corrupt land deals in Malaysia  –  has acquired and destroyed more than 5,000 hectares of mostly primary forest which the Shipibo indigenous community claims belonged to their ancestral lands. In the north eastern Loreto region, smallholders were pressured into selling their land to the Melka Group. The area left as agricultural land is very small because the biggest area is owned by the company. […] This is very dangerous for future generations .’    Resident of Mavuji village, Kilwa district, Tanzania. ‘  Our hope is that our struggle will be successful and  protect our lands for our children and grandchildren. ’    Resident of Lunjuk village, Seluma regency, Bengkulu province, Sumatra, Indonesia. Our lands have been devastated, all the forest is gone, and the streams are completely churned up and blocked.’    Community leader, Santa Clara de Uchunya, Ucayali region, Peruvian  Amazon   3 EU CLIMATE AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT COMMITMENTS AT RISK The UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement shed new light on the urgency of reforming the EU’s destructive bioenergy policy. A post-Paris and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) credibility check of the EU’s 2030 climate and energy policy makes unacceptable any form of support for bioenergy produced from food or energy crops. If the 70,000km 2  of cropland used to produce biofuels for the EU in 2008 had been used to grow wheat and maize instead, it could have fed 127 million people for the entire year. By 2012 that area had increased to 78,000km 2 , an area larger than Sierra Leone or than Belgium and the Netherlands combined. On average, food-based biofuels emit over 50 percent more greenhouse gases than fossil fuels. As a result, by 2020 the EU’s transport emissions will have significantly increased, not decreased, because of biofuel consumption. CORPORATE CAPTURE: T HE ‘ FIREPOWER ’ OF THE BIOFUEL INDUSTRY  The EU is on a collision course with its international climate and sustainable development commitments. Yet the vast ‘firepower’ of the biofuel industry lobby stands in the way of change. Biofuel mandates and other forms of state aid have allowed the biofuel industry to multiply its turnover almost fourfold between 2008 and 2014. They have created a self-reinforcing dynamic of capture of EU decision making by this industry. European biofuel producers alone spend between  €3.7m and €5.7m  annually on EU lobbying. This puts them on a par with the tobacco lobby which reported spending €5m in 2015 . All actors of the biofuel value chain together  –  biofuel producers, feedstock growers, commodity traders and processors and technology providers  –  have reported spending  €14.5m– 19.5m and hiring 399 lobbyists for EU influencing in the past year. Other groups supporting biofuel mandates  –  fuel providers, automotive industry players and actors of the wider bioenergy and energy sectors  –  add another 198 influencers and  €21.8 m  – 24.6m to the EU-lobbying firepower of the industry. With close to 600 lobbyists at their disposal and an annual reported spending in the €36.2m– 44.1m range, the biofuel lobby and its allies outnumber the entire staff of the Directorate General for Energy of the European Commission and have a spending capacity comparable to that of the pharmaceutical lobby. Ending biofuel mandates will require EU policy makers to free themselves from the stranglehold of prominent actors of the biofuel value chain, such as the French group Avril , which has carefully built a far-reaching network of influence at national and European levels. Containing the influence of these powerful groups is essential to respect the commitments made by the EU in New York and Paris in 2015, and to ensure a sustainable food and climate future. Policies that subsidize or mandate food-based biofuel  production or consumption drive up food prices and multiply price shocks in agricultural markets. The biofuel lobby and its allies outnumber the entire staff of the Directorate General for Energy of the European Commission. In the first year and a half of the Juncker Commission, its top officials have met 38 times with actors of the biofuel value chain and only eight times with NGO representatives to discuss bioenergy  policy.  4 Figure 1: Avril’s network of influence and lobbying firepower Source: EU Transparency Register and EC Register of Commission Expert Groups The combined EU influencing firepower of  Avril  , Europe’s largest biodiesel  producer, and its network of influence adds up to 76 lobbyists and €3.7m–€4.8m annually.
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