MEPs vote to keep 10% biofuels target but with land-use criteria

September 16, 2008

A new compromise solution has emerged in the immensely complex battle to develop an EU policy on biofuels.

A meeting of the European Parliament’s industry committee earlier this month agreed to maintain the EU target of having 10% of transport fuels coming from biomass by 2020, but with certain ‘sub-targets’ aimed at placating those concerned about the social and environmental impact of biofuels production.

The committee agreed to an interim target of 5% by 2015, which is down on the current voluntary target of 5.75% by 2010. Of this 5%, a fifth will have to be either second-generation biofuels or electric cars powered by hydrogen or electricity from renewable sources. The 2020 target of a 10% share of transport fuels is supposed to be made up of two-fifths (40%) of second-generation fuels or electric cars.

MEPs also agreed to a major review of the targets in 2014. The overall package has to be approved by ministers.

There also appears to be greater clarity on the sustainability criteria that will form the measuring stick by which biofuels are approved. Biofuels can only be approved if they are shown to save at least 45% of the equivalent CO2 of fossil fuels, rising to 60% in 2015.

In addition, MEPs have included a criterion on ‘indirect land use change’, following concerns that changing the use of land to grow biofuel crops could lead to more land being used for food crops and an increase in overall greenhouse gases.

T&E policy officer Nuša Urbancic said: ‘The fact that the savings have to be 45% from the start, rather than the 35% the Commission proposed, is a positive development, but we cannot be happy that the overall 10% target has been maintained. The EU should not be concentrating on volume targets but on the climate objectives it wants European industry to achieve.’

Meanwhile a report by the OECD says existing biofuels policies in developed countries are expensive, inefficient and a poor substitute for cutting energy consumption in the transport sector. The authors say biofuels cost between €600 and €1070 of CO2 saved.

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