At the end of the 2013 ‘Year of Air’, environmental organisations took a look back at what the European Commission has achieved in terms of air quality and, more importantly, looked ahead to the next steps for 2014 and beyond. With this assessment, Transport & Environment, AirClim, ClientEarth, the European Environmental Bureau, and the Health and Environment Alliance examine where we stand compared to the start of the year and ask whether there are tangible signs of EU action.
NGOs wrote to the incoming Greek Presidency of the Council of the EU stressing the urgency of reaching an ambitious agreement on the issue of biofuels’ adverse impacts on land use, climate change and hunger. Transport & Environment, BirdLife Europe, ClientEarth, European Environmental Bureau, Friends of the Earth Europe, Brot für die Welt, and Oxfam call for a meaningful level of cap for first-generation biofuels, correct carbon accounting that includes indirect land-use change (ILUC), and appropriate support for advanced biofuels.
European energy ministers today rejected by a blocking minority a political deal to amend the EU biofuels policy. The rejected agreement, struck by the Lithuanian Presidency of the EU, would have limited the use of food-based biofuels that are eligible to count towards carbon reduction targets  to 7% of transport fuel – a cap close to the original 2020 target. The deal would have also mandated just the reporting of biofuel emissions from indirect land-use change (ILUC)  with a wide range of values for ILUC factors.
On 12 December, energy ministers will come together in Brussels to vote on the European Commission’s proposed reform of EU biofuel policy. The reform is designed to reduce the environmental and social impacts of EU demand for biofuels – specifically the Indirect Land-Use Change (ILUC) effects of their production. This media advisory outlines how, if left unchanged, current policy will lead to higher instead of lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil fuels, will destroy forests and damage biodiversity, will push small scale farmers off their land and threaten the food security of the world’s poorest people.
Yes, this editorial has an unlikely title. If you have been following us, or the issues we work on, a little bit, the overwhelming impression is that things have been scaled back (emissions-trading aviation), postponed (the Fuel Quality Directive, possibly NOx from ship engines, truck CO2 emissions) and watered down (CO2 from cars, biofuels).
Hopes of having the full social and environmental effects of biofuels reflected in EU legislation before 2020 are fading after another round of negotiations led to further weakening of the European Commission’s proposal. With an agreement likely in the Council of Ministers next month, it looks as if the requirement for member states to report the effects of indirect land-use change (ILUC) will be further weakened. Also, food-based biofuels that are worse for climate change than traditional petrol and diesel will be allowed to increase by 50% from today’s levels and will not be capped under the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD).
This monthly digest is a collection of brief updates on transport or environmental stories from around Europe.
The European Union faces critical economic challenges, including dwindling natural resources and increasing expenses linked to pollution and related health problems. Without further action, degradation of nature will cost the EU €1 trillion every year by 2050. T&E and partner NGOS support research, development and application of sustainable technologies and practices and call on Mr Barroso, van Rompuy and Schulz to promote sustainable innovation at the highest political levels.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has published its fifth report on global warming, concluding it is 95% certain that climate change is human-induced. However, it will not release its detailed analysis of transport’s contribution to climate change until Working Group III’s report on mitigation of climate change is published, possibly in April 2014.
The IPCC findings, published last month, were widely reported, but one of the world’s leading broadcasters, the BBC, has been criticised for giving ‘false balance’ to climate sceptics in its coverage of the report.
Two new reports have highlighted the dangers of governments delaying action to limit transport emissions. A study from Germany says economic growth will be much harder to achieve if international action to cut climate-changing emissions is not achieved by 2015. And a study from the UK on how carbon emissions from aircraft contribute to global warming has also stressed the importance of acting now, not in several years.