This letter was first published by the Financial Times on February 19 2014.Sir, it is lazy of the Financial Times to brand critics of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership as “antitrade campaigners” (“No time to waste on transatlantic trade”, editorial, February 17). Two examples should suffice to illustrate that the controversy around TTIP is not so much about trade as about legitimacy and democracy.
They say there are two options to push out bad news – publish it on a Friday, or bury it in a much bigger announcement. On transport fuels, the European Commission has chosen the latter strategy.
The EEB and T&E have given a cautious welcome today to the formation by the European Commission of a new advisory group on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. The formation of the group represents the very first step in what is still a long process of improving the transparency and accountability of the negotiations.
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.