The Environmental Justice Implications of Biofuels

34 Pages Posted: 24 Jul 2016 Last revised: 4 Oct 2016

Carmen G. Gonzalez

Seattle University School of Law

Date Written: July 21, 2016

Abstract

Analyses of the viability of biofuels as alternatives to fossil fuels have often adopted a technocratic approach that focuses on environmental consequences, but places less emphasis on the impact that biofuels may have on vulnerable populations. This Article fills the gap in the existing literature by evaluating biofuels through the lens of environmental justice – including climate justice and food justice. The Article examines the impact of biofuels on the global food system and on the planet’s most food-insecure populations. It concludes that the laws and policies promoting the cultivation of biofuels have contributed to global malnourishment by raising food prices and accelerating the large-scale acquisition of arable lands in poor countries that deprive local communities of the land and water necessary to grow food (a phenomenon known as land-grabbing). Ironically, the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of many biofuels exceed those of the fossil fuels they replace. Instead of mitigating climate change, the promotion of biofuels threatens to intensify an industrial model of agricultural production that degrades local ecosystems, exacerbates climate change, and intensifies food insecurity. The Article concludes by discussing governance strategies to foster a more equitable and sustainable approach to bioenergy that respects, protects, and fulfills the human right to food.

Keywords: Biofuels, environmental justice, human rights, food security, right to food, climate justice, climate change, food justice, land grabbing, international investment law, bilateral investment treaties, financial speculation, transnational corporations

JEL Classification: F13, F18, F54, Q17, Q56, N50, O24, K32, K33

Suggested Citation

Gonzalez, Carmen G., The Environmental Justice Implications of Biofuels (July 21, 2016). 20 UCLA Journal of International Law and Foreign Affairs 229 (2016).; Seattle University School of Law Research Paper No. 16-19. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2813002

Carmen G. Gonzalez (Contact Author)

Seattle University School of Law ( email )

901 12th Avenue, Sullivan Hall
P.O. Box 222000
Seattle, WA n/a 98122-1090
United States

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