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  • Leaked ‘Iluc’ studies make it hard for EU not to act

    Commission studies that have been leaked to the Reuters news agency show that the indirect land-use change caused by biofuels production is significant and feedstock-specific, and that biodiesel is likely to be worse for the climate than fossil fuels.

    The Commission is currently evaluating indirect land-use change (Iluc), and has postponed a proposal on how to cope with this issue to September (original plans were to publish an impact assessment in July). In the meantime, it is refusing requests for certain studies it has commissioned into the full impact of Iluc, but Reuters says it has got hold of three of them: the Commission’s own impact assessment, the JRC report from an expert workshop in Italy organised by the Commission, and a study by the International Food Policy Research Institute.

    The Commission’s own impact assessment is said to show that the EU’s target for biofuels to make up 10% of road fuels by 2020 may lead to an indirect one-off release of around 1,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide, more than twice the annual emissions of Germany. ‘This would have significant implications for the existing EU biodiesel industry,’ Reuters quotes the report as saying. ‘The viability of existing investments could be affected in the long run, as the availability of conventional biodiesel feedstocks would be extremely reduced.’

    T&E policy officer Nusa Urbancic said: ‘These studies show it will be more and more difficult for the Commission not to act. Politically, there are two main options on the table: either to increase the greenhouse gas threshold, an approach being pushed by the energy directorate but unfortunately with no impact on ILUC emissions; or to legislate for certain Iluc factors, an approach we are supporting, as it fits the legislative mandate and scientific consensus. We urge the Commission to act, and to present a scientifically robust proposal on Iluc as it was required to do by the Parliament.’

    A group of MEPs from different parties has written to the Commission, asking it to distinguish clearly between different types of biofuels when assessing their contribution to climate-change targets. They want account taken of the indirect effects on carbon dioxide emissions, as well as the direct effects.

    The Commission has also approved seven certification schemes which can be used by producers to demonstrate that their biofuels are compliant with the sustainability criteria. These schemes, however, do not address iluc and have therefore been criticised by environmental NGOs.