The Institute for European Environment Policy (IEP) analysed the action plans drawn up by 23 EU states about the use of renewable fuels and more specifically bio fuels. The study shows that the EU wants to replace 9.5% of the diesel and petrol used by bio fuels by 2020. Bio fuels are grown on agricultural land. Environmentalists say that in order to produce the fuels the area of land under cultivation will have to increase by between 4.1 and 6.9 million hectares.
They argue that as a result more forests will have to be cut down increasing the level of CO2 in the atmosphere. The research suggests that CO2 emissions will rise by between 27 and 56 million tonnes a year as a result of the EU's bio fuel drive.
Belgium was not included in the research because it has not yet drawn up an action plan for renewable energy.
Sara Van Dyck of the Flemish environmental umbrella Bond Beter Leefmilieu (BBL) says that the EU has got it wrong: "The EU wanted to cut CO2 emissions by promoting bio fuels. They thought that bio fuels were CO2 neutral because the CO2 produced when bio fuels are employed is neutralised by the crops used to produce the bio fuels in the first place. They probably did not take enough account of the fact that agricultural land is not available in unlimited quantities."
The environmental and international development organisations want Belgium to use its EU presidency to tackle this issue. "Belgium has a unique opportunity and can urge the European Commission to take account of the indirect ramifications of using agricultural land to produce bio fuel crops."
The umbrella adds: "Belgium has not yet presented its action plan for renewables. When it does so we don't want it to favour the use of bio fuels produced on agricultural land."
"It's not true!"
Belgian bio fuel producers say that the production of bio fuels will not lead to more CO2 in the atmosphere. They maintain that there is at present sufficient land that is lying fallow that in future could be used for the cultivation of bio fuel crops.