On 21 May 2008, FoE Japan, Global Environmental Forum, and the Biomass Industry Society Network held an international citizens' forum in Tokyo prior to the G8 Environment Ministers' Meeting to be held in Kobe a few days later. The title of the forum was "Can Biofuels Prevent Climate Change?"
Forum participants from Japan and overseas expressed the following concerns:
The current boom in biofuels could cause a dramatic increase in demand for crops that serve as feedstock for biofuels. The result could be a rapid increase in demand for agricultural land, which in turn could cause over-exploitation of land, ecosystem destruction, conflicts between biofuels and traditional land uses, and competition for water and agricultural land. Some of these impacts are already evident.
The boom in biofuels, combined with the impacts of speculative funds, are boosting food prices, with serious impacts on vulnerable groups, including the poor in developing countries.
Not only might the use of certain biofuels be ineffective against climate change, the destruction of forests and peat lands for biofuel can trigger the release of large amounts of greenhouse gases contained therein.
Simply switching to alternatives like biofuels will not provide fundamental solutions to climate change and other global threats. Comprehensive urban transport policies and other demand-side approaches to reduce fuel consumption are also necessary.
Based on the points stated above, we wish to convey the following messages to G8 Environmental Ministers.
We call for a moratorium on targets and incentives for the introduction of biofuels until the above-stated concerns are properly addressed.
We urge the Environmental Ministers to request leaders at the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit to discuss a framework for developing international standards for the environmentally- and socially-sustainable production and use of biofuels.
The development of international standards should be conducted through transparent processes that involve the fair and proper participation of civil society in each country. Discussions should incorporate a wide range of perspectives, including food security, land-use issues, energy efficiency, biodiversity, transportation policy, and cost-effectiveness.
Governments should devote resources immediately into research for the development of proper standards, and into assessments of the societal and environmental impacts of biofuels. They should also review the excessive subsidies now being used to promote biofuels despite many uncertainties regarding their impacts on food security and doubts about their actual effectiveness in addressing global warming
21 May 2008, at the JICA Global Plaza, Tokyo, Japan