Commission ignores criticism and sticks to 10% target

February 6, 2008

The Commission has published draft legislation committing the EU to 10% use of biofuels in transport, despite an admission by the environment commissioner that the EU had not foreseen the problematic side-effects of biofuels targets.

[mailchimp_signup][/mailchimp_signup]The legislation published last month is aimed at committing the EU to getting 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. T&E and other environmental groups support this, but say the insistence on 10% of transport fuels from biomass is deeply flawed, and the Commission’s own scientific advisory body confirms this.

T&E described the 10% target as ‘a dangerous dead end’ that leaves the EU’s strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transport fuels ‘in disarray’.

Environmental groups had already criticised the Commis-sion’s approach for failing to set sufficiently robust sustainability criteria for biofuels production. A group of 17 Brussels-based NGOs wrote to the energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs saying the legislation could lead to the destruction of important ecosys- tems, food price rises, water shortages, forced evictions, poor working conditions, and the displacement of other land-based activities into environmentally sensitive areas.

That same week, the environment commissioner Stavros Dimas said the EU had to ‘move very carefully’ having underestimated the side-effects of biofuels. Dimas told the BBC: ‘We have seen that the environmental problems caused by biofuels, and also the social problems, are bigger than we thought they were.’

T&E has always been against setting volume targets for biofuels, saying the target should concentrate on the desired result, in this case less CO2. It has therefore called for CO2 reduction targets for transport fuel in general rather than legislation that says a specific type of fuel should be used.

This argument has been reinforced by another two studies which say biofuels can be a poor option in sustainability and economic terms. According to a survey of 1000 climate specialists by the World Bank and the World Conservation Union, biofuels produced from food crops were judged to have the least potential for reducing GHG emissions,. And a team at Berkeley university working on California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard says most biofuels appear to have higher GHG emissions than fossil fuels when the impact of land use is factored in, up to six times as much in some cases.

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