Last year was the one in which it became plain for everyone to see that transport had turned from being the grey sheep to the black sheep in Europe and the world’s efforts to improve the environment.
The full European Parliament today agreed to cap the use of land-based biofuels in transport, with the aim of being a check on the growing consumption of biofuels that increase carbon emissions compared to conventional diesel and petrol. Today’s vote marks the endgame for the EU’s public policy support for biofuels, after more than a decade.
Further decarbonisation of transport through a shift to alternative fuels and electro-mobility forms a major part of the European Commission’s strategy for an ‘energy union’, unveiled last week. With transport being responsible for more than 30% of EU energy consumption and a quarter of emissions, the Commission said legislation on ‘decarbonising the transport sector, including an action plan on alternative fuels’ would be put forward in 2017.
Members of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee voted today to limit at 6% the use of land-based biofuels that can count toward the 10% renewable energy target in transport by 2020. They also approved accounting of indirect emissions (known as ILUC)  from biofuels under the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) with a review clause to put them in all pieces of legislation after 2020 . This vote will put the brakes on the growing consumption of biofuels that increase greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional diesel and petrol.
After a decade of promoting biofuels, Europe is in the midst of reforming its policy. Below you can download three different graphs (in pdf): the political positions of the three European institutions in early 2015; what they mean in terms of emissions and a detailed timeline of events since the first policy was introduced in 2003.
As the European Parliament’s Environment Committee Rapporteur today presents his report on the reform of Europe’s biofuels policy, a new web documentary explores how the EU has failed to decarbonise transport through biofuels. The web documentary can be found at www.biofuelsreform.org.
EU governments last week agreed three modest targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions, increase the share of renewable energy and improve energy efficiency by 2030. Environmental groups said the goals would not do enough to cut Europe’s dependence on fossil fuels and put it on track to meet its own 2050 climate pledges.
Did you know that every car in Europe uses a blend of biofuels? This is because of EU law. And to meet this demand, global production of biofuels has skyrocketed. You may think ‘bio’ means biofuels are always good for the planet. But because biofuels are derived from plant products, any increase in their use has a direct impact on agriculture worldwide. That means more deforestation to make way for new agricultural land, releasing the stored-up carbon of rainforests into the air and driving up global food prices. Co-produced by T&E, BirdLife Europe, and the European Environmental Bureau, The Little Book of Biofuels explains this Butterfly Effect of Europe’s biofuels policy and how we can end it.
Several transport stakeholders, including civil society organisations and industry players, wrote to EU institutions to highlight the importance of keeping dedicated policies for the decarbonisation of the transport sector. They argued that this policy framework should be based on a decarbonisation target, promoting fuels and energy with the highest carbon savings, avoiding fragmentation of the EU market, and ensuring long-term visibility and stability for investments.
The EU and the US are currently negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) free-trade agreement, which would be the world’s largest. Recently the pressure on the EU to weaken the Fuel Quality Directive has increased notably and oil companies and refiners have found in/with TTIP a new lobby vehicle to attack the FQD. Find out more in this briefing.