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Renewable Energy Directive raises concerns over impact on developing countries

In 2009, the European Union adopted the Renewable Energy Directive (RED), mandating Member States to obtain 10% of all transport fuels from renewable sources by 2020.

In 2018, the amended Renewable Energy Directive, referred to as RED II, enhanced the sustainability standards for bioenergy and established a revised objective for 2030, elevating the target for the proportion of renewable energy utilised in transportation to 14% by 2030. This November, the RED III changes the renewable energy target for transport from a 14% energy target to a 29% energy target.

While the RED aims to address urgent environmental concerns, its implementation has unintended consequences, particularly in developing countries, notably in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Directive has led to a surge in demand for agrofuels, driving large-scale land acquisitions in these regions.

According to reports from organisations like Action Aid, to meet the EU's targets for increasing renewable resources in transport fuels, it will require approximately 17.5 million hectares of land – an area equivalent to over half the size of Italy – to cultivate crops for agrofuel production. Such acquisitions raise concerns about land grabbing, poverty exacerbation, and food insecurity in affected communities. The ramifications of these land deals extend beyond economic concerns such as the displacement of local populations, reduction in livelihood options, and potential conflicts among stakeholders.

As discussions around Europe's renewable energy targets continue, stakeholders, while acknowledging the need for foreign direct investment in Africa's development, emphasise the need for a balanced approach that prioritises the well-being of communities and the environment. This calls for a collaborative effort between Europe and African nations to ensure sustainable development for all.

Photo by Josh Withers on Unsplash


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