Leaked guidance rings alarm bells over sustainability of biofuels

February 15, 2010

Environmental organisations have reacted with alarm to draft guidance from the Commission aimed at clarifying sustainability rules for biofuels. NGOs fear the guidance, if brought into effect, would lead to more greenhouse gases as a result of biofuel production, not fewer.

The Commission has been drawing up guidance on sustainability criteria for biofuels and which fuels can count towards the EU’s 2020 renewable fuels target. Some of that guidance has been leaked, and brought warnings from T&E and Friends of the Earth.

T&E says allowing biofuels made from waste to count double compared to other biofuels could cause indirect land-use changes with serious environmental impacts. In the case of animal fat, this would create a powerful incentive to divert use from cosmetics manufacturing to biofuels production, which in turn would cause the cosmetics industry to use more palm oil, which itself is a cause of deforestation.

FoE is also concerned about palm oil, in particular the Commission’s draft definitions for palm oil plantations. It says the Commission is proposing to define plantations as ‘continuously forested areas’, allowing them to meet criteria for sustainable biofuel sourcing, despite the fact that they are the primary cause of rainforest loss in Malaysia and Indonesia.

The Commission’s proposal to exclude any installation that had biofuels production before January 2008 from an obligation to meet sustainability criteria is also controversial, as huge volumes of biofuels could be exempted as a result, causing more emissions.

Malaysian palm oil producers are reported to have been running an intense lobbying campaign in Brussels for fear of the EU banning palm oil imports.

The Canadian government has ordered a study into the environmental impact of making ethanol and biodiesel because of concerns over what its environment ministry calls ‘a range of new air- and water-related problems, as well as recent concerns over human health’. The study comes just six months before a new law takes effect requiring all petrol to have a minimum of 5% biofuel content.

Related Articles

View All