By Jelena Simjanovic, clean energy directorWHAT I LEARNED IN 2016: I joined T&E in late summer, soon after the European Commission published its Low-emission Mobility Strategy. Its goals looked promising: increasing efficiency of the transport system; speeding up the development of low-emission alternative energy for transport; and moving towards zero-emission vehicles. While I had a general idea about biofuels and sustainability issues around them, I entered the transport world after 10 years of working on a variety of energy sector issues and carbon markets. I feel privileged to have a job where I can learn as much as I have learned in the past five months, while at the same time utilising my extensive knowledge of the electricity and energy markets for the discussion on transport electrification and development.
Backtracking on its commitment to promote the electrification of transport and a phaseout of food-based biofuels, the European Commission today proposed to keep supporting planet-wrecking biofuels until 2030 and not stimulate the uptake of clean electricity in transport. Moreover, the Commission is setting a target for advanced fuels 15 years in advance, without appropriate sustainability criteria, as if it hasn’t learned a lesson from mistakes with first generation biofuels.
What to do with biofuels? This simple question has given many European policymakers huge headaches for a decade now. Two subsequent, dragged-out legal processes to first promote them (2006-2009), and then to contain food-based ones (2012-2015) left no-one happy. NGOs warned that the problems were still not solved, while industry maintained that all investment security was gone.
When oil prices were rising fast, some 10 years ago, the idea of ‘peak oil’ re-emerged – the (false) idea that the world’s oil supplies were about to run out. Several recent publications now hint at an entirely different kind of ‘peak oil’ – one caused by shortfall in demand, not supply.
The European Commission is currently working on a new Renewable Energy Directive (RED) and a new bioenergy sustainability policy for the period 2020-2030, which will have implications on the long-term pathway to decarbonise transport fuels. At the end of October, T&E, together with BirdLife Europe, ActionAid and Fern, wrote a letter to the European Commission to highlight their recommendations for a post 2020 sustainable low carbon transport fuels policy. We encourage the European Commission to phase-out food-based biofuels by 2030 and to prioritize a GHG-based target over a blending mandate for incentivizing truly low carbon advanced fuels and electricity.
This paper outlines the common views of 11 NGOs, including Transport & Environment, for a sustainable bioenergy policy for the EU's 2020-2030 renewable energy policy framework . To ensure bioenergy is genuinely sustainable, comprehensive safeguards need to be introduced which check that bioenergy is truly low carbon, resource efficient and avoids negative consequences on biodiversity, soil, water, land use and people.
Some of the world’s most valuable forests are still being destroyed in order to make palm oil, of which a considerable portion ends up as biodiesel for use on Europe’s roads. That is the striking message from an investigation by a global alliance of NGOs, including T&E, that has uncovered horrific deforestation in Indonesia’s pristine rainforest in the remote province of Papua. T&E says this highlights the urgent need for the EU to correct the anomalies in European legislation that allow climate-harming biofuels to count towards climate targets.