U.N.'s Pachauri urges caution on biofuel
BRUSSELS, March 26 (Reuters) - The world must take care when developing
biofuels to avoid perverse environmental effects and higher food prices,
Nobel Peace Prize winner and climate change scientist Rajendra Pachauri
said on Wednesday.
Speaking at the European Parliament, he questioned whether the United
States' policy of converting corn (maize) into ethanol for use as a
transport fuel would reduce the emission of greenhouse gases blamed for
Controversy has grown over using food crops to make biofuels as an
alternative to fossil fuels. Some environmentalists and politicians say
it has raised food prices, distorted government budgets and led to
deforestation in southeast Asia and Brazil.
"We should be very, very careful about coming up with biofuel solutions
that have major impact on production of food grains and may have an
implication for overall food security," Pachauri, chairman of the U.N.'s
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, told a news conference.
"Questions do arise about what is being done in North America, for
instance to convert corn into sugar then into biofuels, into ethanol,"
The United States is the world's biggest producer of biofuels, derived
mostly from corn. "Several questions have arisen on even the emissions
implication of that route, and the fact that this has clearly raised
prices of corn," said Pachauri, whose panel shared the Nobel prize with
former U.S. Vice President Al Gore last year.
Scientists say some kinds of biofuel generate as much carbon dioxide
(CO2) as the fossil fuels they replace. Supporters, however, say that
biofuels are the only renewable alternative to fossil fuels and do
generally result in greenhouse gas emission savings.
Pachauri, in Brussels for talks with European Union lawmakers, said it
was crucial to look at other ways of producing biofuels, including
investing strongly in research and development to convert cellulosic
material into liquid fuels, as well as using agricultural residues.
EU leaders pledged last year to increase the share of biofuels used in
transport, but concern that this is pushing up food prices has led the
bloc to say it may reconsider its strategy.
Earlier this month EU leaders pledged to pass laws within 12 months to
implement ambitious goals for combating climate change, including
slashing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and increasing
the share of renewable energy.
Pachauri commended the 27-nation bloc's efforts, saying it had taken a
much needed leadership role on climate change. Asked if countries
applying strict emissions curbs to fight climate change should tax
imports from countries which do not, Pachauri said he hoped this would
not be necessary. The outcome of a U.N. conference in Copenhagen next
year meant to adopt a new climate change treaty would be instrumental in
that regard, he said. (Reporting by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Tim Pearce)