EU Parliament ends support to highest-emitting palm oil biofuel while freezing all food-based biofuels at current levels
The European Parliament voted today to limit the support to biofuels made from food crops to 2017 national consumption levels and never higher than 7% of all transport fuels. Parliament also voted to remove biodiesel made from palm oil, the highest emitting biofuel in the market today, from the list of biofuels that can count towards the renewables target in 2021. This means that drivers will no longer be forced to burn palm oil in their cars and trucks.
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Parliament also approved an overall transport target of 12% containing a 10% blending mandate for so-called ‘advanced’ fuels, which includes renewable electricity, waste-based biofuels and “recycled carbon fuels”. Overall, Transport & Environment (T&E) welcomes the decision to cap the use of food-based biofuels at current levels but regrets that MEPs missed the opportunity to support a more ambitious phase out.
Laura Buffet, clean fuels manager at T&E, said: “Today’s parliament vote sends a clear message to the biofuels industry that growth can only come from sustainable advanced fuels such as waste-based biofuels, not from food crops. This compromise redirects investments into the fuels of the future and eliminates palm oil biodiesel, the highest emitting biofuel. Unfortunately the deal does little to clean up and phase out existing EU crop biofuels which will continue to receive support until 2030.”
Four out of every five litres of biofuel consumed in Europe is biodiesel.  T&E’s analysis, based on the results of the Globiom study for the European Commission, shows that on average EU food-based biodiesel produces 80% more CO2 emissions than the fossil diesel it replaces. Biodiesel made from palm oil is on average three times worse for the climate than fossil diesel. Currently, most EU biofuels increase, not decrease, CO2 emissions.
T&E warns that the new definition and list of advanced biofuels leave the door open to unsustainable feedstocks. The rules need to be tightened to ensure only truly sustainable advanced feedstocks are incentivised under the Renewable Energy Directive.
Laura Buffet said: “This vote puts the EU fuels policy on a cleaner track, but it still leaves the door open to some unsustainable second-generation biofuels. We urge the European Commission and EU governments to tighten the definition and the list of advanced biofuels so as to only promote truly sustainable biofuels and avoid the same mistakes of the past.”
Around half of EU production of crop biodiesel is based on imports, not crops grown by EU farmers .
Before it is enacted as law, the European Parliament, EU governments and the Commission will have to agree a common position in trilogues starting next month.