Efforts to allow biofuels to make a meaningful contribution to fighting climate change have suffered a major setback. A vote by MEPs earlier this month – in somewhat farcical circumstances – effectively means there may be no agreement on encouraging good biofuels that reduce greenhouse gas emissions before the elections of the European Parliament next year. T&E has described the situation as ‘pitiful’ and ‘a victory for vested interests over innovators’.
Twenty-one Nobel prize winners have urged the EU to immediately implement the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) which would label tar sands as dirtier than other fuels. ‘The extraction of unconventional fuels – such as oil sands and oil shale – is having a particularly devastating impact on climate change,’ wrote the laureates in a letter to European commissioners and environment ministers earlier this month.
The vote in the European Parliament’s plenary session in September put EU biofuels policy a step closer to being environmentally useful, but it will likely lead to delays in final agreement, which creates further uncertainty for the industry. MEPs voted to limit the use of land-based biofuels and to recognise the problem of indirect land-use change (ILUC) in future biofuels laws. But they failed to give a negotiating mandate, which would enable all institutions to conclude the agreement before the next year’s elections.
The complex but crucial concept of indirect land-use change has finally been recognised by one section of the EU’s legislative process. Earlier this month, the European Parliament’s environment committee voted for full accounting of indirect emissions from biofuels production, as well as a 5.5% cap on land-based biofuels counting towards the EU’s renewable energy targets. Although the vote is a long way from being confirmed, T&E described it as ‘light at the end of the tunnel’.
A senior environmental lawyer has undertaken a new legal analysis of the Commission’s proposal to address indirect land-use change (ILUC) caused by the EU’s biofuels policy, revealing that the EU executive violated a fundamental principle of EU law in its response to the problem of ILUC.
A new blow to the EU’s biofuels policy has come from the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier de Schutter. In a letter to the Commission and member states sent last month, de Schutter says there will not be enough European land available to grow crops if the transport sector is to meet the EU’s target of a 10% share of its fuel with biofuels by 2020.
The European Parliament’s energy committee is likely to submit a very different opinion on how to deal with indirect land-use change (ILUC) than the Parliament’s environment committee.
Opinion by Jos Dings. So now it’s official – the EU’s biofuel policy is not only counterproductive for the environment, it is also a massive economic drag. A new study we put out on 17 April shows that, on a total turnover in the range of €16bn, the sector receives about €10bn in public support per year.
The total annual public support for biofuels production in Europe is around €10 billion, equivalent to a bailout of Cyprus every year, according to a new report. T&E says the finding confirms that most biofuels on the market today are not only bad for the environment but do not help Europe’s economy either. The report comes as the leading MEP in the environment committee of the European Parliament has proposed to classify different biofuels according to their environmental impacts by including their emissions from so-called indirect land-use change (ILUC).
The battle to get the full environmental impact of biofuels recognised in EU legislation is still slow to make progress. Despite a letter from eight NGOs and a study from the Netherlands, EU energy ministers, in a meeting last month, did not even support the Commission’s proposed 5% cap on ‘first generation’ biofuels. At the same time, two new studies from the EU’s Joint Research Centre confirm that biofuels with high indirect land-use change emissions will cause more greenhouse gas emissions than petrol and diesel.