Source: information.org Map: Original forest: All yellow and green areas. Current forest: Dark green and light green areas.
Food insecurity and poverty.
Oxfam has released their report today entitled Biofuelling Poverty .
In January of this year, the European Commission published its Renewable Energy Roadmap, proposing a mandatory target that biofuels must provide ten per cent of member states’ transport fuels by 2020. This target is creating a scramble to supply in the South, posing a serious threat to vulnerable people at risk from land-grabbing, exploitation, and deteriorating food security.
As Oxfam says, ‘It is unacceptable that poor people in developing countries bear the costs of emissions reductions in the EU.’ They suggest, ‘the Commission must include social standards in its sustainability framework, and develop mechanisms by which the ten per cent target can be revised if it is found to be contributing to the destruction of vulnerable people’s livelihoods.’
Oxfam mentions that ‘the rush by big companies and governments in countries such as Indonesia, Colombia, Brazil, Tanzania and Malaysia to win a slice of the ‘EU biofuel pie’ threatens to force poor people from their land, destroy their livelihoods, lead to the exploitation of workers and hurt the availability and affordability of food.’
Wider pressures on food supply.
Land for biofuels is competing with demands for food crops. Crops such as palm can be used for either.
Demand from Asia has lifted prices for wheat and corn, Europe’s main cereal crops. While European wheat prices are up to €200, or $285, a ton – up from €120 last year – bakeries of all sizes have struggled to pass on costs.
Higher prices for sugar, soybeans, corn and cooking oil have also weighed heavily on the margins of diversified food producers in Europe and North America, including catering companies, while rising hop and barley prices have affected the bottom line of many brewers.
Premier Foods, the largest food producer in Britain and the name behind Hovis bread, Mr. Kipling pies and Bisto gravy granules, has seen profit from its core bakery business nearly cut in half this year. The share price has fallen more than 30 percent since May. Robin Asquith, a London-based food and drink analyst with JP Morgan Securities says, “Food retailers have accepted that food price inflation is here for the long term, and they are doing a reasonable job pushing through costs.” He said “Companies like Premier Foods are responding and raising their prices to compensate for higher input costs.”
Demand for crops such as soya and palm oil has increased thanks partly to developing economies but, supply has also been affected with crops such as wheat being hit by droughts and floods during 2007.
More on the current economics of food here.
The Forest Conservation Portal links to sites covering threats to forests all over the globe. Mongabay.com, a site publishing on many aspects of the world’s forests is an excellent education & news site. They report that higher commodity prices, especially for beef and soy, have further spurred forest conversion in the Amazon.
The Dutch government has announced it will exclude palm oil from “green energy” subsidies as growing evidence suggests that palm oil is often less sustainable than advertised. Key to the decision was research presented by Wetlands International that showed the climate impact of the conversion of carbon-rich peat lands for oil palm plantations. Oil palm plantations in Indonesia have expanded from 600,000 hectares in 1985 to more than 6 million hectares in early 2007. More here.
The concept of ‘avoided deforestation’.
Avoided deforestation is the concept where countries are paid to prevent deforestation that would otherwise occur. Funds come from industrialized countries seeking to meet emissions commitments under international agreements like the Kyoto Protocol. Policymakers and environmentalists alike find the idea attractive because it could help fight climate change at a low cost while improving living standards for some of the world’s poorest people, safeguarding biodiversity, and preserving other ecosystem services. A number of prominent conservation biologists and development agencies including the World Bank and the U.N. have already endorsed the idea. Even the United States government has voiced support for the plan.
More here and also read, Is the Amazon more valuable for carbon offsets than cattle or soy?
Let the National Geographic take you to the Panama Rain forest