Joe Biden to block Boris Johnson’s answer to global food crisis

·5 min read
Joe Biden’s officials made it clear on Sunday that Washington will attempt to block the plans in a bid to protect US farmers - Brendan Smialowski/Pool via AP
Joe Biden’s officials made it clear on Sunday that Washington will attempt to block the plans in a bid to protect US farmers - Brendan Smialowski/Pool via AP

Joe Biden will on Monday attempt to block Boris Johnson’s plan to move away from green fuels amid a transatlantic split over how to tackle the global cost of living crisis.

Mr Johnson will address G7 leaders at a summit in Germany and ask them to repurpose land currently used for crop-based biofuels to grow more food.

The Prime Minister believes using less green fuel would dampen soaring food prices and help avert famines in poorer countries that rely heavily on Ukrainian grain blockaded in ports by Russia.

However, Mr Biden’s officials made it clear on Sunday that Washington will attempt to block the plans in a bid to protect US farmers and avoid jeopardising climate commitments.

Downing Street sources admitted that Mr Johnson’s plan would fail without the support of all G7 nations. The Telegraph understands Germany is backing the plan, but it has been rebuffed by the US and Canada.

“Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine are creating terrible aftershocks across the world, driving up energy and food prices as millions of people are on the brink of famine,” Mr Johnson will tell his counterparts on Monday.

“Only Putin can end this needless and futile war, but global leaders need to come together and apply their combined economic and political heft to help Ukraine and make life easier for households across the world. Nothing should be off the table.”

The intervention will seek to rally his counterparts around Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, and will be interpreted as an attempt to boost his statesmanship credentials on the international stage as he faces political problems at home.

At the summit on Sunday, Mr Johnson warned Emmanuel Macron that a peace deal with Russia would give Putin “licence to manipulate” the world.

The two leaders met after criticism of the French president and his perceived desire to bring an early end to the conflict in Ukraine.

“The Prime Minister stressed any attempt to settle the conflict now will only cause enduring instability and give Putin licence to manipulate both sovereign countries and international markets in perpetuity,” a Downing Street spokesman said.

Despite the apparent tension between the two, a UK delegation source said they planned to step up their relationship and planned a bilateral visit in the coming weeks.

A Number 10 source said on Sunday night: “It’s all great with the French now. Both sides are aligned. Macron said the defeat of Russia is option number one to pursue. Option two is put Zelensky in best position to strike a deal.

“There is a real sense that Putin was stupid to bomb Kyiv as the G7 gathered. It has made the leaders more united.”

As the G7 leaders gathered, Russian missiles struck targets across Ukraine, with the capital enduring the heaviest barrage in months. An apartment block was destroyed, killing at least one person.

Back in Westminster, MPs are calling for Mr Johnson’s resignation after two disastrous by-election defeats on Thursday and could change the rules of the 1922 Committee to oust him this year.

One MP has told The Telegraph that a flurry of no-confidence letters have been sent to Sir Graham Brady, the committee’s chairman, since the Prime Minister declared that he was looking to stay in post until the 2030s.

Some leading Tory backbenchers have been critical of the drive for Net Zero as the country faces record inflation and the prospect of a recession.

Mr Johnson will make his intervention to other G7 leaders following a virtual address by Mr Zelensky on Monday morning. Downing Street said he wanted world leaders to “work together to consider temporarily reducing biofuel production in order to mitigate the spikes caused by the invasion”.

Germany is understood to be backing the idea, with sources telling Reuters that “a temporary waiver on biofuel would be an important signal by the G7 to reduce grain prices in the short term and to relax the market situation”.

Officials from the North American delegations argue that temporarily scrapping biofuel would undermine countries’ support of Net Zero and could force up the price of fuel.

But Number 10 sources said the price impact would be limited because bioethanol – the green component of E10 petrol – makes up just 0.1 per cent of global fuel supply, while the effect on Net Zero would be “negligible”.

Downing Street denied that there was a “deep freeze” in relations between Mr Johnson and Mr Biden over the issue after the Prime Minister did not turn up to a previously arranged meeting on global infrastructure that was chaired by the US president on Sunday.

A spokesman said Mr Johnson and Mr Macron had already discussed the plan with Mr Biden earlier in the day and did not feel their attendance was necessary.

The dispute over biofuels comes ahead of a tough election cycle for the Democrats, with high fuel prices and economic uncertainty likely to cost Mr Biden control of Congress in November.

It is thought maintaining support for biocrops and the farms that grow them could help the party maintain support in rural America.

The US is the world’s biggest producer of ethanol for use as a transport fuel, and one of the biggest producers of biodiesel. In April, Mr Biden announced a plan to expand the use of ethanol over the summer because “biofuels have a role to play right now”.

However, he is also reported to have privately voiced disquiet over the policy, fearing biofuels have a limited ability to bring down petrol prices as well as undercutting his administration’s climate policies.

Mr Johnson has attempted to portray the UK as Ukraine’s closest ally and will also present plans to help remove 25 million tonnes of grain from blockaded Ukrainian silos before it rots in a month.

The plans include a £10 million fund to repair war-hit Ukrainian railways and a new “testing process” to identify grain being sold by Russia that was stolen from Ukraine.

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