Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Biofuels, cure worse than the disease

By Vandana Shiva *

The commitments adopted to mitigate climate change are inadequate and, in this context, are a false solution biofuels, food of the poor transformed into energy.

New Delhi, February 18 (Tierramérica) - In 2008, nobody can deny climate change caused by human activities. However, the commitments needed to mitigate it and help the most vulnerable to face its effects are insufficient and do not include the recognition of the disaster. The mitigation materials requires changes in tariffs of production and consumption. Globalisation has given impetus in the world as far as the production to consumption and therefore to greater emissions of carbon dioxide. The rules of the World Trade Organization on trade liberalisation forcing countries to follow a path that requires increasing emissions. The same is the World Bank to provide loans to super-highways, power plants termoelétricas, industrial agriculture and retail sales on the part of large corporations.

They are also responsible companies giants such as Cargill and Wal-Mart. Cargill is an important actor in the dissemination of the soybean crop in Brazil and the plantations of palms in the jungles of Indonesia, in whose burning has responsibility. And the model of Wal-Mart, trade centered on long distance, is a recipe safe for the increased burden of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The first step towards mitigation requires a focus on the actions of actual real actors.

Stocks are real, for example, an activity contrary to the farming and local systems of food production, as well as involving loss of rural economies, with low emissions, in the face of the spread of urbanization in charge of construction companies. They also included the destruction of sustainable transport systems based on renewable energy and the promotion of private cars. The real actors are the great global agribusiness, the WTO and the World Bank. Nor are the oil companies and the companies cars that drive this transition to the non-sustainable in terms of mobility.

The Kyoto Protocol prevented completely respond to the need to stop the activities that lead to higher emissions and the political challenge of imposing standards on polluters and making them pay in accordance with the principles agreed in 1992 at the Earth Summit. Instead, Kyoto put in motion the mechanism for the exchange of rights to emissions of gases causing the greenhouse effect, which in fact reward the contaminants to give them rights on the air and market them to contaminate. Today, the market of emissions trading reached $ 30 billion and it is estimated that grow more.

Another false solution to climate change is the promotion of biofuels prepared with corn, soybean, palm oil and pinion. Fuels produced from biomass remain the most important source of energy for the poor in the world: the energy used for cooking comes from biomass not edible, as manure, cow, ear of corn, stems of vegetables and agroforestry species. Biofuels are the industrial food of the poor transformed into heat, electricity and transport.

The President George W. Bush scheduled the production of 132.5 billion litres of biofuels in 2017. Inevitably, the massive increase in demand for grain will occur at the expense of the satisfaction of basic needs of human beings, as people poor, marginalized in the market of food due to the increase in their prices. Firstly, the deforestation caused by the expansion of plantations of soybean and palm is leading to increased emissions of carbon dioxide. The FAO estimates that 1.6 billion tonnes, or 25% to 30% of the gases causing the greenhouse effect released into the atmosphere each year, come from deforestation.

For 2022, the plantations for the production of biofuels can lead to the destruction of 98% of forests in Indonesia. The United States use 20% of their corn to produce 19 billion litres of ethanol, replacing only 1% of the use of oil. If they were 100% of the corn used to produce ethanol, replace only 5% of the oil used today. Clearly this is not a solution either to put a ceiling on the use of oil or to mitigate climate change. These false solutions will not increase more than the climate crisis and at the same time, and poglobili worsen inequality, hunger and poverty.

* Vandana Shiva is biologist, environmentalist and writer.

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