“As long as the Commission is unwilling to deal with the issue of indirect land use change, all attempts by the EU to brand biofuels as sustainable will be misleading, counterproductive and destined for failure” said Nusa Urbancic, of Transport & Environment.
On 8 March, the coalition of environmental organisations sued the European Commission for failing to release several key studies, documents and emails that reveal the extent of the impact of ILUC (2). The case is being dealt with by the General Court of the EU, the Union’s second-highest court of appeal (previously known as the Court of First Instance). The Commission has until 4 July to respond.
Tim Grabiel, lead lawyer on the ClientEarth v. Commission case, said: “It is completely inappropriate for European bureaucrats to hide the science on their misguided biofuel policies. The Commission must take leadership here, admitting its biofuel mistake and taking steps to correct it. It is unacceptable that we must sue the Commission to make it engage transparently with its citizens on biofuels’ environmental impacts.”
According to its own figures, the Commission is currently withholding about 140 documents, although the groups suspect that number is much higher. The environmental groups have urged their public release in the interests of transparency and public participation in policymaking, rights enshrined in European law.
The communication published today leaves a number of additional issues unresolved. In particular, the definition of what is ‘waste’ material in the context of collection of biomass for fuel use and the issue of so-called ‘grandfathering’ whereby any biofuel production facility already installed would be exempted from aspects of sustainability rules.
Pieter de Pous from the EEB said: “Let there be no mistake, with this communication the Commission won’t be able to ensure that biofuels are actually green. A lot more needs to be done, starting with facing up to the reality of indirect effects but also tightening the exemptions for existing installations.”
An earlier draft of today’s communication defined palm oil plantations as forests, a move criticised by the UK, Netherlands and Denmark governments as well as by environmental NGO’s. That classification was removed from the final version.
“While it is commendable that the Commission has dropped the shameful attempt to pass palm plantations for forests, this communication leaves unchanged the fact that the EU is subsidising massive forest destruction through its bio-energy policies”, said Ariel Brunner, head of EU Policy at BirdLife International.