• Environment experts to have say on sustainability criteria in setting future fuel quality standards

    EU environment ministers will have a major say on the sustainability criteria that will accompany the future of European transport fuels, following a decision by representatives of the 27 governments.

    [mailchimp_signup][/mailchimp_signup]Diplomats from the member states were discussing whether the proposed revision of the fuel quality directive should have sustainability criteria. Environmental NGOs have said it should, because it is environmental ministries and MEPs on the European Parliament’s environment committee which have the expertise in sustainability.

    The Commission’s position is that the proposed renewable fuels directive – generally known as the biofuels directive – should have sustainability criteria, and the fuel quality directive should simply refer to them. That would have left the development of the criteria in the hands of energy ministers and MEPs on the energy committee.

    The 27 representatives decided that both directives should have sustainability criteria, and the Slovenian presidency said the sustainability criteria would be different in the two directives, but based on the same ‘core criteria’.

    The agreement came as more evidence emerged that fuels made from biomass have significant harmful side-effects without doing much for the environment.

    A study by the US Nature Conservancy found that converting rainforests, peatlands, savannahs or grasslands to produce biofuels in Brazil, south-eastern Asia and America releases up to 420 times more CO2 than the carbon reductions these biofuels provide.

    Another study from Germany says factoring in indirect land-use changes shows that corn-based ethanol production doubles greenhouse gas emissions. The authors say the results ‘raise concern about large biofuel mandates’.

    Last month the British government announced it was reviewing the economic and environmental impacts of biofuels because of sustainability concerns. The news was welcomed by environmental NGOs, who hope the review will lead to pressure for the EU to abandon its target of 10% use of biofuels in the transport market by 2020.