Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Biofuels and Orangutans

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Environmentalists launch ad campaign warning “green fuels” could do the planet more harm than good

8th May 2007

A coalition of some of Britain’s biggest green groups is launching an advertising campaign attacking environmentally destructive ‘bio-fuels’.

The adverts feature a petrol pump held to the head of an orang-utan. “Tell the Government to choose the right biofuel.” it says. “Or the orang-utan gets it”.

The groups believe a misjudged push for the wrong kinds of ‘green’ fuels could damage the climate and destroy some of the world’s last remaining rainforests. Biofuels can be used in place of petrol and diesel - because they can be produced from crops they could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and can play a small part in reducing emissions from transport. However a coalition including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, RSPB and WWF are warning that the Government risks implementing an ill-thought out policy which lacks the appropriate safeguards, meaning that the Government could be creating more problems than it solves.

Last week the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report stating that protecting the world’s forests is one of the single biggest steps the international community can take to lessen the effects of climate change.

The Government proposal – known as the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) – could, in its present form, lead to biofuel production causing the destruction of rainforests and wetlands, not only threatening endangered habitats and species but also releasing far more carbon into the atmosphere than could ever hope to be saved by replacing fossil fuels.

The groups are demanding the Obligation is tightened up so that biofuel producers must meet minimum greenhouse gas and sustainability standards, with environmental audits of the whole life-cycle of the fuels, from growing the crop to burning it in the car.

The adverts ask members of the public to write to Government and demand tough, compulsory standards.

Dr Douglas Parr, Chief Scientist at Greenpeace, said: “In its current form, this proposal is complacent. It could see biofuel production wrecking the climate rather than helping it, at a time when scientists are warning us that we need to slash emissions to avoid dangerous global warming. The Government must sort out this botched plan or risk losing the value that biofuels could offer.”

Ed Matthew from Friends of the Earth said: "The risks are so great that biofuels should be the last option to reduce transport emissions, not the first. Not only has the Government got it's priorities wrong, its biofuels proposals are so weak that they are in real danger of increasing global warming emissions, not reducing them. The word is incompetent."

Dr Mark Avery, Conservation Director at the RSPB, said: “A rush for biofuels could considerably accelerate the destruction of habitats and loss of wildlife in areas where it already at considerable risk. The contribution forests are making to tackling climate change, as well as harbouring rare wildlife, is more than enough to make their protection a priority. Without environmental standards, biofuels are a green con."

John Alker, Senior Public Affairs Officer at WWF-UK said: "A climate change policy that potentially increases rather than cuts CO2 emissions is clearly a nonsense. Biofuels could offer part of the solution to climate change - but Government needs to get this policy right in order to do so."


For more contact Greenpeace on 0207 865 8255 or Friends of the Earth on 0207 566 1720


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