Under the terms of the EU's Renewable Energy Directive (RED), EU member states are required to source 10% of transport energy from renewable sources, mainly biofuels, by 2020. The RED includes ‘sustainability criteria’ that dictate the minimum CO2 savings biofuels should achieve compared with fossil fuels in order to qualify for the scheme (and receive state subsidies). These criteria account only for the emissions that occur when land is converted specifically to grow biofuel crops (direct land-use change). However it does not currently contain measures to calculate the impact of indirect land-use change (ILUC). The European Commission proposed in October 2012 to introduce mandatory reporting of ILUC emissions, thereby acknowledging the climate impact of indirect emissions from biofuels. However, because it didn't include “ILUC factors” as part of the sustainability criteria, the Commission missed the opportunity to correctly account greenhouse gas emissions for biofuels and steer bioenergy production in a sustainable direction.
In July 2013, the Environment Committee of the European Parliament corrected the Commission proposal by voting in favour of fully accounting for these 'indirect emissions' from biofuels that can count toward the 10% renewable energy target in transport by 2020. In September 2013, the full Parliament voted to limit the use of land-based biofuels and supported full accounting of ILUC emissions in the FQD. But MEPs failed to give a negotiating mandate to the rapporteur, which would have enabled all institutions to conclude the agreement before the next year’s elections. The ball is now in the corner of the Council, which needs to finalize its first-reading position. Read our briefing on the subject and our press release on the European Parliament vote.