Biofuels Campaign Guide - ActionAid

Biofuels Campaign Guide - ActionAid

The human costof biofuel is risingYour HungerFREE biofuel campaign guideAct now to stop the UK government biofuelling poverty.40680_AA_Campaign_Guide_Biofuels_A4_V4.indd 1 03/02/2011 14:15

The cost of biofuelThe biofuel storyA few years ago, biofuels were touted as the miraculousanswer to our energy shortages and climate change woes.They even promised to bring development to poor countrieswhere biofuel crops could be produced on cheap land.Governments and industry alike ran out to jump on the biofuel bandwagon. Whilst governmentsbegan setting huge targets for the amount of biofuel required in petrol and diesel, companiesstarted buying up land to grow them in poor countries.But in the last few years the evidence has mounted to expose biofuels asdisastrous for both poor people in developing countries and the environment.In light of this, we expected governments, including the UK’s, to rethink their support for biofuel.But they are ignoring the facts and continue to promote biofuel as both a solution to climatechange and a force for rural development in poor countries.Industrial biofuelsare made fromcrops such as wheat,maize, soy, sugarand palm oil. Theyare produced on ahuge scale and areused to fuel our carsas well as to generateheat and power.The campaign so farIn January 2010, more than 12,000 ActionAid campaigners contacted theDepartment for Transport urging them to put the brakes on increasing theamount of biofuel in UK petrol and diesel.A few months later, they responded to your demands withthe good news that they would not be committing to massiveincreases in biofuel use just yet. They were delaying thedecision, they said, because of concerns over the potentialof biofuels to save greenhouse gas emissions and would beconsulting on their biofuel plans in early 2011.The Department for Transport’s consultation on the futureof biofuel policy has now arrived. There is a danger that theycould decide to more than treble the target for the amount ofbiofuel in UK petrol and diesel.However, there is also a real chance that they could scrap thetarget altogether and instead turn their attention to genuinesolutions to lowering emissions from transport.It is absolutely vital that we take this opportunity todemand that they scrap the biofuel target. We mustact now to stop the biofuel bandwagon hurtling us alltowards a humanitarian and environmental disaster.Did you know that 3.5% of all UK petrol and dieselis already made up of biofuel? So whether you’reon the bus or in your car, you have no choice but toburn biofuel.Asmana Alhassan, a farmerfrom Ghana who lost his land toa biofuel company.PHOTO: AcTIOnAID40680_AA_Campaign_Guide_Biofuels_A4_V4.indd 2 03/02/2011 14:15

The cost of biofuelWhat’s wrong with biofuels?Industrial biofuels hurt the world’s poorest people in many ways:Local impacts – how biofuels are affectingthe communities where they’re grownHuge government-set biofuel targets are providingan incentive to foreign biofuel companies to oust poorfarmers from their fertile land.The scale of the current land grab is astonishing. In justfive African countries, 1.1 million hectares havebeen given over to biofuels. That’s an area the sizeof Belgium! All of the biofuel produced on this land is forexport, meaning none of it will increase access to energyin developing countries. This land grab is leaving localcommunities in the developing world stranded, unable togrow their own food or afford the food in their local market.Biofuels are also affecting people’s access to the naturalresources they rely upon. Water is diverted away fromwells and into irrigating the biofuel crop, and villagers areno longer able to enter the forests that have sustainedthem for generations. Foreign biofuel companiesare routinely breaking the promises they make tocommunities to provide local improvements and jobs.Last year, 90% of UK biofuels were imported, mostly fromEurope, the US and South America. If the governmenttrebles our target, it’s most likely that the extra biofuelwill come from developing countries meaning morecommunities will suffer these devastating consequences.Global impacts – how biofuels arepushing people into hungerIn 2008, global food prices rose dramatically causinga world food crisis that led to riots in more than 30countries. Many experts, including some at the WorldBank, cited industrial biofuels as one of the maincauses. ActionAid estimates that an extra 30million more people were pushed into hungeras a result of biofuels during this crisis.But this is just the start. As more governments adopthuge biofuel targets, food prices are set to rise againand the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation iswarning of another looming food crisis. In the last sixmonths of 2010, the prices of wheat and corn bothincreased by a whopping 50%. For poor families inthe developing world, who can spend as much as 80%of their total income on food, even a small rise in theprice of staple foods is catastrophic.There are already almost 1 billion people livingin hunger. If all global biofuel targets (includingthe UK’s) are met then hundreds of millions morepeople could be hungry by 2020.Environmental impacts – how biofuelsare making climate change worseMost industrial biofuels release more greenhousegasses than the fossil fuels they were designed toreplace. This means that biofuel targets willactually make climate change worse.This is largely due to the ‘land use change’ (or landclearance) needed to make way for the vast biofuelplantations popping up all over the developing world.When carbon-rich habitats such as forests or peatlandsare cleared to make way for biofuels, huge amountsof greenhouse gasses are released. If a hectare ofIndonesian rainforest is converted to a palm oilplantation, it will take 423 years of burning thatpalm oil (as an alternative to fossil fuel) to see anyclimate change benefits.Biofuels present a false solution to the climate crisisand are diverting much needed political attention andfinancial support away from genuine ways of reducingour greenhouse gas emissions.And again the world’s poorest people take the bruntof it as the impacts of climate change hit developingcountries first and hardest.Jacquilina Manhique, a farmerin Mozambique, on her land that wasgrabbed by a biofuel company.PHOTO: JAMES OATWAy/PanOS/AcTIOnAID40680_AA_Campaign_Guide_Biofuels_A4_V4.indd 3 03/02/2011 14:15

The cost of biofuelWhat are we calling for?ActionAid is tackling the driving force behind the rush for biofuels –government-set targets aimed at increasing the amount of biofuel used in transport.In order to tackle climate change, in 2009, the EuropeanCommission passed a law which stated that, by 2020, 10% ofall transport fuel in member states must come from renewablesources. Unfortunately, this has become a de facto biofueltarget. Many governments, including the UK’s, have creatednational laws setting targets for the percentage of our petroland diesel that must be made up of biofuel.As a result, what should be a tool to reduce climate changehas become an implement of disaster.ActionAid is calling for the Department for Transportto scrap the target for biofuel use in transport. TheUK government must not ignore the science and tie us intousing another unsustainable fuel source that is wreakinghavoc in the developing world.Instead, they must invest in genuine solutions to climatechange by supporting non-biofuel renewable energy intransport, including electric cars. It is vital that they also workto lower our emissions by investing in public transport, improvingthe fuel efficiency of cars, promoting walking and cycling andencouraging people to reduce the number of journeys they take.ActionAid activists campaigning against biofuelsoutside the European Parliament in 2010.PHOTO: ActionAidHow do I explain the campaign?Talking about the biofuel campaign and answering people’s questionscan be tricky. Here are a few tips on what to say to friends, family and thegeneral public:• Biofuels are made from agricultural crops, very oftenfood crops.• Biofuels are pushing up food prices and so are forcingmore people into hunger. Hundreds of millions more peoplecould be hungry by 2020 because of biofuels.• Biofuel companies are grabbing land from localcommunities in poor countries. This is threateningtheir ability to feed themselves and make ends meet.• Most biofuels release more greenhouse gasses thanthe fossil fuels they were designed to replace.• We can stop this disaster by demanding that the UKgovernment scraps the target for biofuels in transport.They are currently considering their policy so we needto act NOW.Industrial biofuelsaren’t only havingnegative impacts onpeople in the poorcountries where theyare grown. Here inthe UK, air pollutionfrom planned biofuelpower stationswill increase therisk of respiratoryand heart diseasein surroundingcommunities.Currently, 84% of allbiofuels imported tothe UK are grown inEurope, the US andSouth America. Ifthe government setshuge new targets forbiofuels in transport,the proportion ofbiofuels coming fromdeveloping countrieswill have to increasesubstantially.40680_AA_Campaign_Guide_Biofuels_A4_V4.indd 4 03/02/2011 14:15

38220 Net.pdf 16/3/11 15:15:45The cost of biofuelTake ActionWe’ll be campaigning until the close of the Department for Transport’sconsultation at the beginning of June. That gives us six weeks to convinceNorman Baker MP, the man in charge of biofuel policy, that he must scrap the target.CMYCMMYCYCMYK1. Tell the Department for Transportto scrap their biofuel targetBy sending a textYour text will join thousands of others in a global textpetition. Simply, text the word ACTION plus yourmessage against biofuels to 82727. Don’t forget toadd your name and postcode to the text like this...ACTION Biofuels are harming people in poor countries.Scrap the target. Joanna Bloggs, C13 9PQBy sending a letterPoliticians tell us that a personal letter from a memberof the public really does have more impact. Use thiscampaign guide to write a letter to Norman Baker MP,urging him to scrap the biofuel target.To help you get started, you might like to includesome of the bullet points in the ‘How do I explain thecampaign?’ section in this guide.If you would like more information, and checkout our Q&A or call us on 01460 23 8047.Please send your letter by the end of May to:Norman Baker MPParliamentary Under-Secretary of State for TransportDepartment for TransportGreat Minster House76 Marsham StreetLondon, SW1P 4DR3. Donate so we can bring the campaignmessage to the decision-makers’ doorWe would like to take the message that biofuels areharming people in poor countries directly to the peoplewith the power to scrap the target. That’s why wewant to take adverts on as many buses aspossible that pass the Department for Transportas well as on the bus stop right outside. We needto raise £8,057 to pay for the adverts. Please help makesure they can’t ignore our message!To donate visit Lobby your MPGetting your local MP onside is a key way to influencethe Department for Transport’s decision. All MPs holdregular surgeries where constituents can come andtalk to them about pretty much whatever they want!If you are interested in going to talk toyour MP about biofuels then please or call us on020 3122 0521.Most MPs will know less about biofuels than you do,so don’t worry that you’re not an expert. ActionAidstaff will be really happy to help you prepare for themeeting so do get in touch.2. Help spread the wordAsk your friends and family to take action,and spread the word in your community. Youcan order more materials or our ready-to-use biofuelpresentation by emailing campaign@actionaid.orgor calling 01460 23 8047. You can also download thepresentation or forward the link to our online actionat Help us create a noise onlineSome people still think that biofuels, because of theirfriendly sounding name, are a good thing. That’swhy we need to spread the word that biofuelsare harming both people in poor countriesand the environment.Please visit and forwardour online action to all your friends and family. Post alink to it on Facebook or Twitter.You can also visit to findthe latest news on biofuels from bloggers, experts andActionAid campaigners.40680_AA_Campaign_Guide_Biofuels_A4_V4.indd 5 03/02/2011 14:15

The cost of biofuelThe human cost of biofuelKwame SarpongKwame is a father of six from a village in Senegal. He usedto have a six-hectare plot of land where he grew millet,groundnuts and beans. A European biofuel company cameto his village and promised everyone that if they gave up theirland they would all get well-paid jobs on the company’sbiofuel plantation.Like many of his fellow villagers, Kwame gave up his land andbegan working for the company. But after just two monthsthey began to reduce his monthly salary. Soon, his salary washalf of what he had been promised and was too little for him tobe able to support his family.Not long after, the company fired Kwame and everyone elsefrom his village and brought in workers from elsewhere.Kwame Sarpong, Senegal.PHOTO: AcTIOnAID“I lost my land. They did not respect me. They betrayed me.”Anisia ChareAnisia used to farm three different plots of land growingmaize, beans, sweet potatoes and other staple foods.She had worked on the land for many years, dependingon it to feed the 15 people in her household.In 2008, she heard that a British biofuel company was comingto her local area to grow sugar cane to make biofuel. Soonafter, Anisia was told that all three of her plots of land wouldbe given to the biofuel company but that she would becompensated. Despite the fact that the amount of moneyshe would receive was not discussed, Anisia felt that she hadno choice but to accept it. The company eventually gave her$100 – barely enough for one month’s supply of rice.Some other farmers were so angry that they refused to acceptthe money but it made no difference and the company tooktheir land anyway.Anisia Chare, smallholderfarmer, Mozambique.PHOTO: JAMES OATWAy/PanOS/AcTIOnAID“We want our land back – we don’t want the money thecompany has because it is not enough to feed all of us.We want to earn our living on our own farms like wehave always done.”If you have any questions, please get in touch.Thanks for your support and happy campaigning!Email campaign@actionaid.orgCall 01460 23 8047Twitter @actionaidlizFacebook is a registered charity, number 274467. Published February 2011.40680_AA_Campaign_Guide_Biofuels_A4_V4.indd 6 03/02/2011 14:15

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