The European Commission’s communication on biofuel sustainability (1), published today, will do precious little to address the impacts on land and emissions from crop-derived fuels used in transport, according to BirdLife International, ClientEarth, the European Environmental Bureau and Transport & Environment. The four environmental groups remain deeply concerned about the Commission’s failure to address the critical issue of expansion of agricultural land into environmentally sensitive areas when food production is displaced by fuel crops, a process known as indirect land use change (ILUC).
The environment impact of oil produced from ‘tar sands’ is becoming an increasingly high-profile issue, after three developments in the last month that could be important in the fight for cleaner fuels. MEPs and a group of NGOs have warned that fuel quality legislation agreed in 2008 could be undermined because the true impact of tar sands on CO2 emissions is not reflected in the small print of the law now being discussed, and another NGO says oil from some of the most carbon-intensive sources is probably already in use on this side of the Atlantic.
Efforts to reduce climate emissions from road freight transport were given a boost last month when the Commission suggested the introduction of carbon dioxide emissions standards for the first time. The idea has been floated in a communication on clean and energy-efficient vehicles, which concentrates mainly on setting a framework for the development of electric cars.
The Commission has been forced to release an annex to a study on the impact of biofuels policy it had withheld. The hidden information suggests that biodiesel made from soy beans can emit four times more greenhouse gases than conventional diesel.
A group of 12 environmental groups, including T&E, has written to the climate action commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, warning about the likely implications of new rules that will form part of the EU’s fuel quality directive.
A study undertaken by the European Commission into the potential for biofuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport has found that reductions can be made as long as biofuels are produced in small quantities, but after a certain point, the indirect effects of growing biofuel crops cause galloping increases in emissions.