The complex but crucial concept of indirect land-use change has finally been recognised by one section of the EU’s legislative process. Earlier this month, the European Parliament’s environment committee voted for full accounting of indirect emissions from biofuels production, as well as a 5.5% cap on land-based biofuels counting towards the EU’s renewable energy targets. Although the vote is a long way from being confirmed, T&E described it as ‘light at the end of the tunnel’.
A senior environmental lawyer has undertaken a new legal analysis of the Commission’s proposal to address indirect land-use change (ILUC) caused by the EU’s biofuels policy, revealing that the EU executive violated a fundamental principle of EU law in its response to the problem of ILUC.
A new blow to the EU’s biofuels policy has come from the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier de Schutter. In a letter to the Commission and member states sent last month, de Schutter says there will not be enough European land available to grow crops if the transport sector is to meet the EU’s target of a 10% share of its fuel with biofuels by 2020.
The European Parliament’s energy committee is likely to submit a very different opinion on how to deal with indirect land-use change (ILUC) than the Parliament’s environment committee.
Opinion by Jos Dings. So now it’s official – the EU’s biofuel policy is not only counterproductive for the environment, it is also a massive economic drag. A new study we put out on 17 April shows that, on a total turnover in the range of €16bn, the sector receives about €10bn in public support per year.
The total annual public support for biofuels production in Europe is around €10 billion, equivalent to a bailout of Cyprus every year, according to a new report. T&E says the finding confirms that most biofuels on the market today are not only bad for the environment but do not help Europe’s economy either. The report comes as the leading MEP in the environment committee of the European Parliament has proposed to classify different biofuels according to their environmental impacts by including their emissions from so-called indirect land-use change (ILUC).
The battle to get the full environmental impact of biofuels recognised in EU legislation is still slow to make progress. Despite a letter from eight NGOs and a study from the Netherlands, EU energy ministers, in a meeting last month, did not even support the Commission’s proposed 5% cap on ‘first generation’ biofuels. At the same time, two new studies from the EU’s Joint Research Centre confirm that biofuels with high indirect land-use change emissions will cause more greenhouse gas emissions than petrol and diesel.
The EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard has told an audience in America that the EU will stick to its proposal to classify fuel extracted from tar sands as more polluting than conventional petrol and diesel.
A report commissioned by four environmental organisations says Europe can effectively meet its current renewable energy target in transport without the need for harmful biofuels. With growing concerns that the current EU biofuel policy will increase greenhouse gas emissions, the report presents an alternative scenario that promotes the use of truly sustainable biofuels, maximises non-liquid sources of energy, and reduces overall energy consumption. T&E says the first step towards this clearly improved scenario must be to change current EU policy so it accounts for the full carbon footprint of biofuels.
Environmental groups have reacted angrily to news that the Commission has approved a scheme that would allow fuels made from palm oil to count towards the EU’s renewable fuels target. The decision threatens to reignite the controversy that indirect land-use change (ILUC) is not being taken into account in the EU’s biofuels policy.