• EU fails on biofuels’ impact on indirect land use change

    Agreement has been reached on the EU’s renewable energy directive, with its commitment for biofuels to account for at least 10% of EU transport fuels by 2020.

    But the agreed legislation carries no recognition of the phenomenon of indirect land-use change that means many biofuels will cause more greenhouse gases than they save.

    Representatives of member states reached agreement with MEPs earlier this month, but while there are some ‘sustainability criteria’ in the directive, there is no place in the final text for the concept that increased demand for land – and the displacement of existing agricultural production – can lead to, for example, conversion of forests for agricultural use, which in turn results in substantial greenhouse gas emissions
    Just two weeks earlier, the environment news agency Ends Europe quoted a source close to the Parliament’s biofuels negotiator Claude Turmes as saying: ‘We understand more and more members states are ready to accept a proposal [that includes the impact of indirect land-use change].’
    T&E policy officer Nuša Urbancic said: ‘The EU has agreed the conditions for a huge increase in biofuel sales, but has failed to guarantee that any greenhouse gas savings will be achieved as a result.’

    MEPs on the industry committee had proposed a ‘correction factor’ that would have meant indirect land-use change would be accounted for after 2011, and would have given an incentive for the EU to develop a methodology to take account of it. But this correction factor was deleted from the final text, leaving only a call for the Commission to report on the issue in the future.
    Numerous scientific studies in recent months have highlighted the importance of accounting for indirect land-use change if biofuels are to play a part in an EU climate strategy, but the Commission has played down these findings and has shown no wish to recognise the concept.

    Urbancic added: ‘In approving the text of the renewal energy and fuel-efficiency directives, the EU has taken two steps in the same week that amount to two steps backwards. The two laws together will mean inefficient cars running on potentially harmful biofuels – the exact opposite of what we need.’