• More pressure on 10% EU biofuels target

    Two reports for the European Parliament have called for the EU to abandon its target for 10% of transport fuels to come from biomass by 2020. T&E has obtained information on the greenhouse gas impacts from indirect land use change from biofuel production.

    In a report for the energy committee, the Luxembourg Green MEP Claude Turmes calls for the 10% target to be scrapped. ‘The 10% target is more a political target than a scientific target,’ he said. ‘And his report includes the sentence: ‘There is overwhelming evidence to drop the mandatory 10% target.’

    Turmes’ call was supported by the centre-right MEP Werner Langen, though most MEPs who spoke in the debate on the Turmes report last month wanted to keep the target in some form.

    A separate report for the environment committee by the Swedish centre-right MEP Anders Wijkman calls for the target to come down to 8% by 2020. ‘Given the many unknowns today,’ his report says, ‘the responsible way to go forward seems to be to instead go for a lower target – such as 8%.’

    Meanwhile, T&E has got hold of documentation from the Commission on how to measure the climate impact of when land used to produce biofuels leads to other land being converted for other purposes such as agriculture to offset the land that has been displaced.


    Known as ILUC (indirect land use change), it was not addressed in the Commission’s proposed renewable energy directive currently going through the legislative process, or in its greenhouse gas calculator for agrofuels.
    Since the renewable energy proposal was published, new research suggests that the ILUC from agrofuel crops is probably so great in many cases that the resulting biofuels in fact have greater greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuels.

    T&E director Jos Dings said: ‘The good news is that it seems that the Commission has the intention of seriously looking at this issue, but we have to be careful that it does not underestimate the ILUC impact.’

    The head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation has launched a powerful attack on western policies on promoting biofuels.

    Speaking in Rome earlier this month, Jacques Diouf told a gathering of heads of government that he thought it ‘incomprehensible that subsidies worth €7-8 billion in 2006 were used to divert 100 million tonnes of cereals from human consumption mostly to satisfy a thirst for fuels for vehicles.’

    • The EU agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel has said biofuels must not become ‘a scapegoat’ with ‘exaggerated’ claims about land use. In a speech last month, she said 80% of the EU’s biofuels target could be met using only 15% of EU arable land.