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03 Nov 2020, 14:10
Kerstine Appunn

Land use report backs German environment minister’s strict stance on farming and biofuels

Clean Energy Wire

A new report on multiple-benefit strategies for the use of land that help to mitigate climate change, reduce biodiversity loss and make the global food system sustainable, has been welcomed by Germany’s environment minister as support in her efforts to introduce stricter rules for farmers and remove food and feed crop based biofuels from Germany’s future biofuel quota. Minister Svenja Schulze said that it was no secret that she wasn’t happy with the member states’ proposals for the next EU Common Agriculture Policy (CAP). “The bar was set very low on a European level and member states have a large scope in their implementation. This is where we have to raise ambition above the set minimum level,” Schulze said at a press conference.

The study “Rethinking Land in the Anthropocene: from Separation to Integration” by the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) offers solutions how humanity can overcome the three global crises linked to its use of land - advancing climate change, the human-induced collapse of biological diversity and a frequently dysfunctional food system. To ensure sustainable land use, over 350 million hectares of terrestrial ecosystems would have to be restored and 30 percent of Earth’s  land area should be protected, Sabine Schlacke, WBGU chair and Executive Director of the Institute for Environmental Law and Planning Law at the University of Münster said. To manage competing land use interests, “multiple-benefit” measures that reconcile the need to produce food, store greenhouse gases and maintain biodiversity could include more timber based construction, a more diversified agriculture as well as the use of agro-photovoltaic and aquaponic systems, Schlacke explained. “Unfortunately, the EU is only very carefully introducing changes to the CAP but isn’t sufficiently shaping policies,” Schlacke criticised.

German minister Schulze also named biofuels as an example where land use concerns had to be taken prominently into account, saying that more rapeseed or palm oil in petrol would cause “threefold damage” to the availability of food, to nature and biodiversity due to deforestation and monocultures and to the climate, as conventional biofuel often emitted more greenhouse gases than fossil fuels.

The German government is in the process of implementing the European Union’s RED II directive, which defines a series of sustainability and emission criteria for the use of bioliquids in transport. While some actors have criticised the environment ministry’s draft bill as not ambitious enough, others are up in arms about Schulze’s plan to stop promoting any biofuels that are not made from residual materials or waste.

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