Cracks appearing in EU’s ‘10% by 2020’ target for biofuels

Signs that the EU is doubting its 10% target for biofuels in transport emerged at last month’s European summit in Brussels.

Sketch of some documents (default image for news

The target that biofuels must have a 10% share of the transport market by 2020 was agreed in principle by EU leaders over a year ago and appears in draft EU legislation on renewable energy. But both the current EU president and representatives from the next presidency say the target may be reviewed due to concerns that, without suitable safeguards, biofuels could do more environmental harm than good.

Slovenia currently holds the EU presidency; its prime minister Janez Jansa said: ‘We’re not excluding the possibility that we’ll have to amend or revise our goals.’ France takes over the presidency from 1 July, and its Europe minister Jean-Pierre Jouyet said: ‘There is no definite position at the moment. On the 10% target, a review has not been excluded.’

Further pressure has come from the European Environment Agency’s scientific committee. It says the 10% target should be suspended while a new study on the environmental risks and benefits of biofuels is undertaken.

A working group set up by ministers to investigate ‘core sustainability criteria’ is due to report next month.

Alongside the impact of biofuels, it has been known for some time that biomass can be more efficiently used for other purposes (like heating).

A group of environmental NGOs issued a statement this month saying current unpublished proposals on sustainability criteria suggested applying ‘only cosmetic changes’ to existing criteria. They particularly criticised the complete omission of indirect land-use issues.
• Germany’s plans to introduce a fuel containing 10% bioethanol have been withdrawn by the environment minister, Sigmar Gabriel. He wanted the fuel, known as E-10, to make it cheaper for the German car industry to reach its climate goals. But with the German car lobby saying around 3.7 million cars would not be able to run on E-10, Gabriel withdrew his ‘roadmap for biofuels’.