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Monday, February 25, 2008

A possible change of tack from Tesco??

Dear Mr. Anderson,

I have been forwarded your response on Tesco's use of biofuels from another concerned person who clearly has similar concerns to myself and many others.

Whilst I welcome the more realistic position that you are adopting in this email over your previous correspondence, your comments below indicate that Tesco is still along way from making the changes needed to protect what natural resources we have left on our planet.

You say that "As both a food and petrol retailer we are working very hard to avoid soy and palm oil from deforested areas by working in multistakeholder groups such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil." As I have pointed out in previous emails, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, is wholly comprised of suppliers and retailers of biofuels and palm oil products. It is completely unrealistic and naive to expect that this group will suddenly become a trusted and reliable custodian of our remaining rainforests as it seeks to self certify its own operations. As an organisation, you would do far better to sever any involvement with this group and make the corporate decision not to sell palm oil based biofuels.

You say "Greenergy, our biggest supplier of biofuels, has pioneered an approach to count the carbon savings of biofuels through a scientific methodology." I have read their document that you refer to. It stretches the imagination to breaking point to call this a pioneering scientific methodology, when it is merely proposes to add various abstract CO2 contributions with no guideline on how the data is to be captured. Page 9 of the document does refer to the "emissions associated with manufacture and use of biopetrol sold in reporting," (see variables CO2BP and CO2BD for petrol and diesel respectively). Given that there is no other reference, I would assume that it is under these two variables that the CO2 emissions for burning down the rainforest and the subsequent long term loss of atmospheric CO2 absorption are accounted for. I would therefore be grateful if you could provide the analysis that Greenergy had done to quantify these variables. I trust that you would also be pleased to make public any audit you have done of this analysis.

It is encouraging that you say "To help us and others understand the true impact of biofuels we have asked the independent Sustainable Consumption Institute (SCI) based at Manchester University to investigate." I trust that you have read their web site, where they say "If we continue to consume at the current rate, we will do irreparable damage to our ecosystems. Issues include the destruction of virgin rain forests, over-fishing, peak oil and palm oil." Hopefully, they should be able to use thier existing knowledge to quickly convince you that biofuel is the most ridiculous solution to our global warming problem before your organisation inflicts more unnecessary and irreparable damage to our remaining ecosystems, thereby avoiding paralysis by analysis.

Todays reports of world food shortages have highlighted the danger that the world is moving towards and make clear the need for an urgent change in policy. We can no longer afford, nor tolerate, endless greenwashing from our multinationals.

This email will be posted on my blog, http://kevsclimatecolumn.blogspot.com/

Regards,
Kevin Lister,

email from Gary Anderson, Tesco Customer Service Executive

Dear Ms Perkins

Thank you for your further email. Please accept my apologies for the delay in my response.

We understand your concerns about the environmental impacts of biofuels and there has been a great deal written on the subject. When we decided to make biofuels available to customers in 2005, we did so in the belief that they could help customers to reduce their carbon impacts and reduce our dependency on oil as a source for petrol.

Since then it has become clear that the impacts of biofuels are more complex and the environmental benefits are dependent on how the biofuels are made. In particular, soy from countries in South America and palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia, two ingredients in many biofuels, have become synonymous with deforestation and the many associated impacts on sustainability, climate change and the rights of indigenous people in those areas. As both a food and petrol retailer we are working very hard to avoid soy and palm oil from deforested areas by working in mutistakeholder groups such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. > > We also recognise that the science is not 100% clear on whether biofuels enables us to tackle climate change and other problems associated with fossil fuels. We continue to review the existing science and we are engaging with NGOs to understand their concerns. For example, the Royal Society recently produced a detailed report on the future of biofuels, which can be accessed at: http://royalsociety.org/displaypagedoc.asp?id=28914. Our aim is to do the right thing for the environment based on clear and accurate information, which can be difficult when there are conflicting views on issues such as biofuels.

This is particularly important as from April we, along with other petrol retailers, will be obliged by the Government through the Road Transport Fuel Obligation to provide 2.5% biofuels in our petrol. We want to make sure that this well meaning initiative helps customers to reduce their impact on climate change by ensuring that our biofuels are sourced sustainably. Greenergy, our biggest supplier of biofuels, has pioneered an approach to count the carbon savings of biofuels through a scientific methodology. This can be found at: http://www.greenergy.com/carbon_counting/Carbon_Declaration_Methodology.pdf

To help us and others understand the true impact of biofuels we have asked the independent Sustainable Consumption Institute (SCI) based at Manchester University to investigate. The SCI was set up earlier this year thanks to a £25m commitment from Tesco over 5 years to provide world class academic research and solutions for practical issues that need to be addressed to help us and our customers tackle climate change. All of the research by the SCI will be made public and we would be happy to send you the findings on biofuels as and when they become available if you would find this useful.

You may also be interested in the broader work we are doing to tackle climate change, from reducing CO2 emissions in our stores and our distribution fleets by 50% to halving the price of energy saving light bulbs to seeking a universal carbon label for all our products. More information can be found at www.tesco.com/greenerliving

Thank you for your interest in this issue.

Kind regards,
Gary Anderson,
Customer Service Executive
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