Transport is Europe's biggest climate problem accounting for 27% of its GHG emissions in 2017. This report summarises a series of studies by Transport & Environment. (T&E analysed pathways for decarbonisation in the road freight, aviation, shipping and car sectors.) It demonstrates that transport can and must be decarbonised by 2050 at the very latest, not only to limit global warming but also to ensure Europe's competitiveness, its energy sovereignty and the health and well-being of its 500 million citizens.
Earlier this year, the European Parliament voted on the renewable energy directive (RED). While the outcome was not ideal, we welcomed Parliament’s vote because it caps food-based biofuels, redirects investments into the fuels of the future (electricity, advanced biofuels) and ends support for palm oil biodiesel.
The discussion about Europe’s biofuels policy is in full swing and the biofuels industry has assembled an impressive lobbying army to spread the gospel. Hardly a day goes by without the biofuels industry organising some event to promote the benefits of biodiesel and ethanol. This is a good indication of how important EU legislation is for biofuel producers. Indeed, growing crops and then turning them into fuels to burn in combustion engines is a costly and inefficient business. The truth is the biofuels industry was created and survives on generous and sustained support in the form of mandates, tax breaks and subsidies.
In November 2016 the Commission presented its new proposal for a Renewable Energy Directive in the 2021-2030 period. The main elements of the proposal on transport are to reduce the cap on food and feed-based biofuels to 3.8% in 2030 and to establish a mandate on fuel suppliers, requiring them to blend 6.8% of advanced fuels by 2030 (T&E’s position on biofuels in the RED can be found here).
Sustainable advanced biofuels can provide significant savings of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) compared to fossil fuels, without using productive agricultural land. The European Commission’s proposal on the Renewable Energy Directive II sets a specific sub-target for advanced biofuels. This briefing is an attempt to suggest a more realistic and sustainable target level for advanced biofuels in the new Renewable Energy Directive.
The environment committee of the European Parliament today adopted a resolution urging the European Commission to phase out the use of vegetable oils for biofuels, preferably by 2020. All political groups agreed on the need to stop incentives to biofuels that cause deforestation and peatland drainage, which includes a range of feedstocks such as palm oil, soy and rapeseed, The resolution was on an own-initiative report on palm oil and deforestation.
The European Commission’s leaked draft proposal to continue supporting land-based biofuels until 2030 will increase greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from European transport over the period 2021-2030 by an amount equivalent to the emissions from the Netherlands in 2014. These are extra emissions from using these biofuels instead of regular diesel and petrol.
On 9 May 2019, a new cruise ship, called AidaNOVA called at the port of Barcelona. On the face of it, AidaNOVA was just another massive luxury cruiser. But the industry called it a game changer because AidaNOVA runs on a different type of fuel than its predecessors: liquified natural (fossil) gas, aka LNG. The debate about the merits of LNG has become a hot topic in energy and climate circles in recent years.
Earlier this year industry organisations promoting liquefied natural gas as a maritime fuel commissioned and published a study on the climate benefits of LNG for ships. The study claims up to 21% GHG savings on a well-to-wake basis if ships use LNG over alternative fossil fuels. The research was undertaken by the consultancy Thinkstep. Following its publication, Dr Elizabeth Lindstad, chief scientist at the SINTEF Ocean research organisation in Norway, reached out to T&E with her commentary on the Thinkstep study. Her commentary can be downloaded below.
You could almost hear the sigh of relief going through the ‘Quartier Européen’ two weeks ago. Despite all the talk of a populist anti-EU insurgency taking Brussels by storm, that was not Sunday evening’s story. The people’s party (EPP) and the social democrats (S&D) each lost 30-40 seats. But the big surprise was the excellent performance of liberal and green parties. By Monday morning people started to talk about ‘a green wave’ with even the European Commission’s most powerful bureaucrat, Martin Selmayr, joining the chorus.