Agreed in April 2009, the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) for the first time obliges fuel suppliers in Europe to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity of transport fuel by 6% by 2020. The law lacked rules on how to account for GHG emissions from different sources of crude oil, which represents 95% of EU’s transport fuel market, and electricity. This meant that the enacted target could only be met with biofuels.
Today’s proposed implementing measures will still encourage the use of electricity in transport and incentivise oil producers to reduce emissions from highly polluting processes such as venting and flaring. The proposal also mandates oil companies to report the origin and trade name of their products, bringing some transparency to this opaque industry.
Reacting to the proposal, Nusa Urbancic of T&E said: “After a five-year siege by Canadian officials and industry lobbyists, the EU is letting oil corporations off the hook. That is not just a tragedy for the climate; excusing the oil industry from carbon reduction efforts is unfair, inefficient, and costly as well.”
Back in 2012 EU environment ministers failed to agree on proposed rules to implement the FQD. The Commission was legally obliged to produce new implementing rules ‘as soon as possible’, but amidst intense lobbying it was delayed by more than 32 months.
Transport is almost entirely dependent on oil: it emits 31% of the EU’s total CO2 emissions and will become the biggest source of climate-changing emissions soon after 2020. The FQD is a key law to promote cleaner transport fuels and is part of the EU's wider goals to cut carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2020.
Last year, the scientific community wrote to outgoing Commission president Barroso to urge him to go ahead with labelling tar sands and other dirty forms of oil as more polluting than conventional crude, arguing that ‘we cannot burn all of the fossil fuels without causing dangerous climate change’.
“After five years of delay, we will likely end up with a very flawed law that won’t deliver on its original objectives of discouraging high-carbon fuel investment. Despite that, we need to implement it. Starting post-2020 work with a basic tracking system in place is better than nothing,” Nusa Urbancic concluded.
A coalition of alternative fuels companies and green NGOs have written to the EU Council, European Parliament and Commission urging them to set an EU binding target to reduce GHG emissions from transport fuels after 2020.
The proposal still needs to be approved by national governments and the European Parliament in the coming months.
. Big European corporations with stakes in tar sands projects include Royal Dutch Shell, with US$26bn in planned investments for the next decade, BP of the UK and Total of France.