ICAO biofuel plans are a Trojan horse for palm oil

20 October 2017

Nearly 100 NGOs have condemned the UN’s aviation agency’s plans to dramatically scale up use of biofuels in planes. The NGOs say that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)’s “Vision” proposal, which claims it will make aviation sustainable, actually involves using biofuels on such a vast scale that it will dramatically increase global demand for palm oil.

The proposals were discussed by ICAO on October 11 - 13 2017, at its Conference on Aviation and Alternative Fuels in Mexico City. The ICAO “Vision” planned to use five million tonnes of biofuels a year from 2025, to be scaled up to 286 million tonnes by 2050 – more than three times the amount of all biofuels produced today. It is part of an attempt by the aviation industry to maintain high levels of growth while presenting themselves as “carbon neutral”.  

Such a massive increase in biofuel production would lead to more deforestation, land-grabs and population displacement, and threaten biodiversity and food security. And when it comes to climate change, it completely misses the point: most biofuels increase greenhouse gas emissions.

Fortunately, ICAO decided at the October conference not to adopt the proposed target to get 50 per cent of aviation fuel from biofuels by 2050, adopting a much more general vision to increase biofuel use, and mentioning the “essential importance” of ensuring sustainability in aviation biofuels. ICAO’s plans will need continued vigilance to ensure aviation biofuels do not become a Trojan horse for palm oil.

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