Subsidies and quotas for biofuels are wreaking social and environmental havoc and in many cases actually exacerbating climate change, says a new Christian Aid report.
The report 'Growing pains: the possibilities and problems of biofuels' calls for a radical overhaul of governments' multi-billion dollar support for biofuels, so that only crops which offer genuine greenhouse gas savings and wider social benefits are encouraged.
"Vast sums of European and American taxpayers' money are being used to prop up industries which are fuelling hunger, severe human rights abuses and environmental destruction – and failing to deliver the benefits claimed for them," says Christian Aid climate advocacy specialist, Eliot Whittington, the report’s author.
"The current approach to biofuels has been disastrous. Policymakers should urgently rethink their entire approach to biofuels, to ensure that only crops and fuels which will achieve their social and environmental goals receive government backing.
"Major reforms are also vital to prevent the damage already caused by biofuel plantations in Latin American and Asian countries from being repeated in Africa."
The report urges governments to adopt a new direction for biofuels, and to view them as an opportunity for rural development in poor countries, rather than a silver bullet solution to climate change.
"Christian Aid believes that the best approach to biofuels is to grow them on a small scale and process them locally to provide energy for people in the surrounding community," adds Whittington.
“This can also increase rural people's incomes and has the potential to actually increase soil fertility and moisture retention without compromising people's food security.”
While the action against poverty charity criticised US-based maize ethanol production for yielding one of the lowest carbon savings, the new report also found examples of high carbon saving biofuel production including smaller scale schemes where biofuel is grown by communities to meet their own energy needs for instance, in Mali where farmers are growing jatropha alongside millet and sorghum.
Read the full report here: Biofuel report