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Biofuels pushing people to poverty

According to a report, the bio-fuel policies pursued by the rich countries are pushing millions of people in the developing world into poverty and increasing carbon emission, reports Chetan Chauhan.

delhi Updated: Jun 26, 2008 01:22 IST
Chetan Chauhan

The bio-fuel policies pursued by the rich countries are pushing millions of people in the developing world into poverty and increasing carbon emission, thereby negating the climate change mitigation programmes, says an Oxfam study released on Wednesday.

The report comes at a time when leaders of the industralised countries are to discuss policies to mitigate the impact of climate change at a G-8 conference in Hokkaido, Japan, in the first week of July. About 30 million people across the world have been dragged into poverty in the last three years because the rich countries are pursuing their bio-fuel policies, the report, Another Inconvenient Truth, says.

Quoting World Bank estimates, the study says the price of food has increased by 83 per cent in the last three years, which is disastrous for the world’s poor people. “The lives of about 290 million people are immediately threatened because of the food crises and about 100 million people have already fallen into poverty as a result,” the study says.

The study attributes 30 per cent of the rise in food prices to bio-fuels and says it has pushed 30 million people into poverty already. “Today’s bio-fuels are not solving the climate or fuel crises but are instead contributing to food insecurity and inflation, hitting poor people the hardest,” said Rob Balley, the author of the report.

Blaming the rich countries for the crises, the report says the subsidies for bio-fuels by the US and Europe are taxing food for poor in the developing world. Last year, the report estimated that industrialised countries spend $13-15 billion on subsidies. This equals the amount required to provide food to those threatened by global food crisis. The amount will rise in the future, with consumption of bio-fuels rising in rich countries, the report says.

On the climate change front, the report quotes an analysis published in the Science journal stating that carbon emissions from global land use changes due to the US’s corn-ethanol programme will take 167 years of climate mitigation programme to pay back. Similarly, Oxfam estimates that by 2020, carbon emissions resulting from land use changes in Europe because of rising demand of bio-diesel derived from palm oil would be between 3.1 to 4.6 billion tonnes — 46 to 68 times higher than the European Union hopes to be achieving by then from bio-fuels. The report recommends that the richer countries should freeze implementation of future bio-fuel mandates and dismantle subsidies and tax exemptions to bio-fuels to save more people from falling into poverty and accelerate the global food crisis.