This is the fifth in a series of eight snippets about how to decarbonise land freight by 2050. Based on a new T&E study, the series will culminate in a public debate in Brussels in September.
The EU is negotiating trade deals with Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay), Indonesia, and soon Malaysia, These trade deals represent a risk for the EU’s sustainable transport plans. All mentioned countries are producers and exporters of crop-based biofuels, especially from palm and soybean oil that have higher overall emissions than fossil diesel. All ongoing negotiations include chapters on energy and raw materials.
Instead of helping the environment, most biofuels actually hurt it. Biodiesel is the most consumed biofuel in Europe today. The problem? European food-based biodiesel emits, on average, 80% more CO2 than fossil diesel.
The European Parliament will vote next week on whether to strengthen the proposal for Europe’s key climate law, the so-called Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR) – or ‘Climate Action Regulation’, the name agreed by the environment committee. MEPs will be asked to back a more ambitious starting point than the European Commission’s proposal and to close some loopholes to ensure member states actually reduce their emissions.
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 Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR) defines the carbon budget for EU member states for the non-traded sectors (surface transport, buildings, agriculture, small industry and waste) until 2030. If the ESR’s headline goal of -30% compared to 2005 is undermined through loopholes, the ESR will not lead to real-world emission reductions in those sectors. This FAQ is aimed at bringing clarity to one element being discussed during the negotiations: the ESR Safety/Early Action Reserve.
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.
Despite all the glaring evidence proving that palm-oil biodiesel is three times more polluting than fossil diesel, European transport still keeps burning more and more palm oil to power its diesel cars and trucks. 2015 data from OILWORLD, industry's reference for vegetable oils market analysis, shows a 3% increase in the use of palm oil for biodiesel. European biodiesel is now the main end product of imported palm oil, reaching an all-time-high share of 46%. This makes drivers the leading (albeit unaware) consumers of palm oil in Europe.
The use of palm oil for biodiesel has been increasing in the EU - 3.35 Million tonnes of it was used in 2015. Currently 46% of palm oil imported to the EU is used for biodiesel, requiring around 1 million hectares of tropical land. The three largest producers of palm oil biodiesel are Italy, Spain and the Netherlands, accounting for 80% of production. Italy and Spain are also large users, while the Netherlands exports most of its palm biodiesel. The three countries consume 38% of what they produce, while the remaining 62% is used in the rest of the EU member states - thus making palm oil use a European issue.