Once again, Canada butts heads with scientific fact. The Canadian government wants to block an international consensus that could lead to a sustainable policy on the use of agrifuels. Such an agreement could limit the ability of Prime Minister Stephen Harper to continue to subsidize his big business friends like the genetic engineering giant Monsanto or oil companies like Suncor, which are now diversifying into corn-based ethanol. Preventing an agreement will lead to the proliferation of genetically engineered crops, deforestation, reductions in biodiversity and more planet killing greenhouse gas emissions. In the place of scientific rigor, the Canadian government resorts to unsubstantiated assertions to promote agri-fuels at a United Nations meeting on agriculture and the environment in Rome this week. The Canada’s delegation told the UN Convention on Biodiversity that ‘our government is confident our biofuel programs should contribute to reduce emissions of carbon and do not threaten agricultural biodiversity.’ This confidence flies in the face of mounting scientific evidence that Canadian measures to promote ethanol and bio-diesel fuels drive up food prices while doing little or nothing to reduce Greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, they promote increased use genetically engineered crops and other unsustainable agricultural practices. Its not just Greenpeace that is worried about agri-fuels. Reports from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and even banks like CIBC have expressed concerns. When the full life cycle of planting, harvesting, transporting and processing corn into ethanol is taken into account, there may be more fuel burned and more emissions of climate changing nitrous oxide emitted than from fuels made from conventional oil. Canada’s huge subsidies to the agri-fuel industry total over half a billion dollars a year. These could be better spent promoting real alternative energy solutions and substantial conservation measures. To counteract Canada’s dangerous diplomatic maneuvers, Greenpeace agriculture campaigner Eric Darier has put forward a series of recommendations to the Biodiversity Convention. His comments are reproduced below.
Greenpeace comments delivered at SBSTTA – Tuesday 19th 2008 ?Agricultural biodiversity ?Thank you M.Chair, ??Greenpeace welcomes the initiative from the international community to ?address the issues of agricultural biodiversity. Greenpeace hopes that this meeting will be able to bring forward adequate recommendations to deal with overlapping environmental, social and political challenges like climate change, agricultural biodiversity and biofuels or rather agrifuels. Greenpeace shall also submit to you a written document. Let me make some ?general and brief comments. ??Greenpeace hopes that the international community has the political will to ?put in place strong and scientific evaluation criteria before rushing in ?adopting technologies or options that have not been proven to offer net ?overall advantages to the fight against climate change, to the preservation ?of biodiversity, to guaranty biosafety and to sustainable development more ?generally. If the data and scientific evidence are not there or are not ?conclusive, the precautionary principle or approach has to be applied. More and more scientific studies and on-the-ground experience indicate that the current feverish development regarding agrifuels is not part of the solution but a new and additional part of the problems that threaten the climate and global biodiversity. From our perspective, it is clearly counter-productive to adopt, develop and promote technologies and policies that have not been thoroughly evaluated. Greenpeace is particularly concerned that there will be attempts at this meeting at re-introducing, introducing or promoting technological- fix solutions like GE trees, GURTs or agrifuels. We are ?calling on all Parties not to fall for unfounded claims of advantages of ?these technololgy-fix solutions and focus instead of known and safe measures, policies and technologies that are solutions for preserving ?biodiversity. ??This meeting this week has a moral imperative to give clear recommandations ?to the Conference of the Parties. Greenpeace urges all parties to address ?the following challenges: ??1. Recognise growing scientific evidence that the production and use of ?bioenergy in the transport and energy sectors may have negative emission net effects as well as negative impacts on biodiversity and the livelihoods of indigenous and local communities ??2. Recognise that criteria for the sustainable production and use of ?bioenergy are urgently needed, but not sufficiently elaborated yet, ??3. Requests that Parties avoid or suspend quantitative targets and quota for ?the consumption of biofuels and other supportive measure such as tax ?exemptions and subsidies, before standards for their sustainable production ?and use are developed as well as globally approved and applied; ?4. Requests that Parties will adopt standards, a traceability system, policy frameworks and a system for monitoring and verification by 2009 to ensure the sustainable production of agrofuels within a comprehensive framework of sustainable agriculture with the following criteria, and to report back to next SBSTTA and COP. ?a) net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of minimum 60 % based on a full life cycle analysis; b) no direct or indirect conversion of intact ecosystems or any carbon rich ?land such as peat lands and primary forests, c) no negative impact on food security and no threat to livelihoods of indigeneous peoples and local communities, especially in developing ?countries, d) no release of genetically engineered organisms in the environment, e) no invasive species, f) minimise use of agrochemicals, g) conservation of water quantity and quality, ?h) conservation and/or increase of natural soil fertility?5. Decides to apply the precautionary principle for any international trade ?with biomass for agrifuels until standards, a traceability system, policy ?frameworks and monitoring systems for ensuring a sustainable production of ?agrifuel within a comprehensive framework of sustainable agriculture are in ?place; ??Greenpeace urges all Parties to address these issues and do the right thing ?for us today, but also for the future generations ?Thank you Mr Chair. ?Eric Darier ?For Greenpeace