Protesters mount the roof at the European Biofuels Expo in Nottinghamshire. Photograph: Action Against Agrofuel
Europe’s largest conference on biofuels was brought to a halt this morning when environmental activists invaded the main hall and accused the industry of destroying rainforests, evicting communities, and increasing hunger and climate change around the world.
As six protesters from a group calling itself Action against Agrofuels climbed into the rafters of the main conference hall in Newark, Nottinghamshire, other activists at the European Biofuels Expo set off rape alarms inside the centre.
"It is unacceptable that the biofuels industry should hold a conference where it portrays itself as ’green’," said John Simmons , a protester, from the roof of the Newark building.
According to a recent World Bank report, 75% of recent global food price rises are attributable to the increasing use of biofuels for transport, which have taken over tens of millions of acres of land previously used to grow food.
"We are incensed that this trade show has been timed to coincide with UN world food day, given that 100 million extra people are going hungry this year alone," said another activist.
Richard Price, the organiser of the conference, said: "They [the protesters] misunderstand what the event is. It’s about using waste products to create energy. Most people here are using waste fuels. This is not to do with large-scale destruction of the forests.
"I have invited them to take part in the conference debates, but they have not yet replied."
The UK government, which is one of the sponsors of the conference, is committed to substituting 10% of all transport fuels with biofuels, but a major review of the target earlier this year exposed deep concerns about the social and environmental impact of growing the crops.
Yesterday the government announced a consultation into biofuels targets in the UK, but it did not include the option of scrapping them altogether.
A new report from Oxfam today declared that nearly 1 billion people now go hungry around the world.