+++ Breaking news: world’s peat lands under threat from EU biofuels law +++

I’m told that the Finnish and Swedish governments (backed by the French EU Presidency) are working right now to insert a loophole to new EU biofuels sustainability standards that would allow the destruction of the world’s peat lands, with appaling consequences for increasing global greenhouse gas emissions. Chapter and verse from BirdLife International after the jump.

New loophole in EU renewables legislation could lead to huge emissions

Poznan, December 9, 2008

What – 95% of peatland will be unprotected from biofuels development,
risking huge carbon emissions

Who – Finland and Sweden backed by French Presidency

When – final meeting this afternoon of EU decision makers (Trialogue)

Huge areas of the world’s peatlands will be opened up for biofuel
production if Finland and Sweden succeed in opening up a new loophole in
EU legislation. They propose that only undrained peatlands should
qualify for protection from biofuels development. However, 95% of the
relevant peatland areas have already been drained to some extent.
Increased drainage for biofuel production will result in massive
releases of greenhouse gases. As huge carbon stores, peatlands should be
excluded from any such cultivation.

The Renewable Energy Directive sets targets for renewable transport
fuels use including biofuels yet it is essential that these result in
savings not greater emissions of carbon.

Facts:

* 95% of Indonesian, Malaysia and also Finish and Swedish
peatlands are already drained to some extent and would thus be
unprotected

* Peatlands are the most important areas for biofuel expansion in
these countries.

* Peatlands are huge carbon stores. The drained peatlands cover
less than 0.5% of the global land surface but are responsible for over
11% of global emissions.

* These should be restored instead of more drained for biofuel
production like palm oil or wood.

* Biofuel production will lead to further, deeper drainage,
causing huge additional emissions.

* Palm oil for instance demands drainage of more than 60 cm,
leading to emissions of 60-100 ton CO2/ha/yr

* 50% of all new palm oil plantations are on peatlands (Malaysia,
Indonesia)

* Per hectare around 3-5 ton palm oil is produced, making this
‘biofuel’ up to 9 times more polluting compared to conventional fuels.

More information:

Alex Kaat
Wetlands International
Alex.kaat@wetlands.org
+31 6 50601917

Melanie Edmunds
Birdlife International
+44 7702 237338

Note to editors:

1. Proposed criterion in the EU renewable energy directive:
“15.4a (new). Biofuels and other bioliquids taken into account for the
purposes referred to in paragraph 1 shall not be made from raw material
obtained from land that was peatland in January 2008, unless it is
proven that the cultivation and harvesting of this raw material does not
involve drainage of the soil.”

2. Finland supported by Sweden are now jeopardising this proposed EU law by
inserting the two words “previously undrained” in the text just before
the word “soil”.

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