Press Release

New report presents alternatives to harmful biofuels to decarbonise EU transport

January 17, 2013

Europe can effectively replace oil with renewable energy in transport without resorting to harmful biofuels, according to a new report by Dutch research institute CE Delft [1], commissioned by environmental groups.


The report, Sustainable Alternatives for Land-based Biofuels in the European Union, explores scenarios that recommend a major EU policy shift, prioritising energy efficiency and speeding up the adoption of renewable electricity and sustainable biofuels such as those produced from waste and residues.

Under current EU obligations, 10 percent of the European transport sector should be powered by renewable sources by 2020, while fuel suppliers are also required to reduce the carbon intensity of transport fuels by 6 percent. EU governments plan to meet these targets through extensive use of biofuels made from agricultural crops, ignoring their wide environmental and social impact including the displacement of food production to new land and the resulting carbon emissions. According to a Commission study [2], most biofuels currently marketed in Europe offer no or limited carbon emission savings compared to conventional fuels when emissions from this indirect land use change (ILUC) are taken into account. 

The CE Delft report, commissioned by Greenpeace, BirdLife Europe, the European Environmental Bureau and Transport and Environment, shows what a real shift in policy would look like, instead of the wholly unsatisfactory compromise offered by the Commission in October. The Commission’s proposal [3], if adopted, would mean that at least half of the 10 percent fuel transport target would still be met using destructive biofuels in 2020 and their overall consumption would be allowed to grow.

Greenpeace EU forest policy director Sebastien Risso said: “This report shows just how wrongheaded current EU policy is and how transport can become cleaner without using harmful biofuels. The easiest and most secure way to minimise the climate impacts of road and rail transport is to reduce energy use and accelerate the electrification of our transport system.”

The environmental groups urge the European Parliament and EU governments to focus on the solutions offered in the report’s alternative scenario to put EU green transport fuels policy back on track. It would lead to a significant reduction in carbon emissions in 2020, while supporting the development of innovative industries that are a great source of jobs. Crucially, member states could meet their obligations under the existing policy framework with no or a substantially lower share of biofuels made from crops grown on land.

T&E fuels programme manager Nusa Urbancic said: “This scenario won’t be achieved overnight and starts with changes to the Commission’s current proposal. The proper accounting of the full carbon footprint of biofuels, including emissions from ILUC, is the first step towards more sustainable alternative fuels. We therefore call on the European Parliament and Council to include ILUC factors in the EU biofuel policy”.

The Commission proposal will be discussed by EU ministers at the energy and environment Councils in February and March and by the European Parliament in the coming months.

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