• Environment Committee steers EU biofuels in a sustainable direction

    There is light at the end of the tunnel after the Parliament’s Environment Committee voted today in favour of full accounting of indirect emissions (ILUC) [1] from biofuels that can count toward both the EU’s 6% carbon reduction target in transport fuels and the 10% renewable energy target in transport by 2020 [2]. This vote aligns EU policy with the most robust science available today and will stop the growing consumption of some biofuels that increase greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional fuels. More importantly, it will promote the production of genuinely emissions reducing transport fuels such as advanced biofuels and renewable electricity for electric vehicles.

    Reacting to the vote, T&E’s clean fuels manager Nusa Urbancic, said: “It is encouraging to see that MEPs in charge of protecting our environment finally addressed the elephant in the room by fully accounting for indirect emissions in the EU biofuels policy. This vote will pave the way for truly sustainable transport fuels, which actually reduce emissions.”
    The Environment Committee also voted to limit at 5.5% the use of land-based biofuels that can count toward the 10% target of transport fuel from renewable sources. Cash-strapped EU Member States spent around €10bn in 2011, a sum as big as the Cyprus bailout, in support of the biofuels industry, a recent study by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) revealed. This public support was necessary to sustain the 4.5% market share biofuels had in 2011 – slightly below the 5.5% freeze voted today in the Environment Committee. 
    Moreover, MEPs voted for post-2020 volume target to be replaced with a target based on greenhouse gas emissions, effectively extending the target in the Fuel Quality Directive until 2025. According to T&E, this is the best policy instrument to steer all transport fuels towards decarbonisation.
    The full European Parliament now needs to uphold in September the science-based decision made by the Environment Committee. Otherwise, public support worth at least €10bn a year will continue to be wasted on harmful biofuels that in many cases pollute twice as much as conventional fuels,” Nusa Urbancic concluded.
    Notes to Editors:
    (1) ILUC happens when land previously used to grow crops for food is converted to grow crops for fuel. As food will have to be grown somewhere else because demand for food remains constant, this will result in an overall increase in emissions caused by biofuels. Watch a short video about biofuels at https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=igUtLwruUjA.
    (2) The EU regulates the use of biofuels through two laws with a 2020 time horizon. The renewable energy directive (RED) sets a 10% target for renewable energy in transport. The fuel quality directive (FQD) requires a 6% reduction in the carbon footprint from transport fuels. In practice, these two targets led to EU countries subsidising and mandating biofuels to meet them, provided they reduce emissions compared with fossil fuels. Both laws therefore have rules for calculating the direct carbon emissions from biofuels but these leave out ILUC emissions.