Day Eight

19 May 2010 | News story

How will we transition to a world that is not dependent on fossil fuels? Biofuels – liquid fuels made from plants – have been presented as an alternative to fossil fuels for transport, writes Andrea Athanas, Senior Programme Officer from IUCN’s Business and Biodiversity Programme.

Clearly we all need to get around and, in reality that means we need oil. Most of the hundreds of people who travelled from around the world to come to the meeting in Nairobi (CBD SBSTTA ) flew (jet fuel is one of the hardest to replace by biofuels, but the aviation industry is looking into jatropha and algae as options). I myself took a train, two planes and a car from Switzerland to Nairobi.

But producing replacements for oil from biomass has unintended consequences – like increasing demand for land for agricultural production, leading to biodiversity loss. And it takes lots of land to produce biofuels in quantities that can put a dent in our fossil fuel use. In fact, it is most likely biofuels will only ever be able to keep up with the incremental increase in demand coming into the market from more and more car drivers. And more and more cars there are. Take Nairobi. Last I was here in 2007 traffic was bad. Now it is terrible. It took over 2 hours to cross town last night.

The Convention on Biological Diversity has a role to play – in safeguarding biodiversity and our protected areas networks from encroaching agricultural production, in identifying species which biofuels producers might want to use but which might be invasive, and in providing guidance on approaches for broader landscape level planning which helps us negotiate the trade-offs between producing food, fuel, fibre, and a host of other things from our land…equitably and sustainably. That’s what is up for discussion.