• Support for life-cycle criteria in fuel directive

    The principle behind the Commission’s attempt to introduce life-cycle environmental criteria for fuel production has been ‘largely agreed’ by EU environment ministers.


    The idea, proposed by the Commission in January as part of a revision of the EU fuel quality directive approved in 1998, is to have mandatory reporting and monitoring of ‘life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions’ from transport fuels. Article 7a of the draft revision proposes an obligatory 10% cut in emissions between 2011 and 2020.

    EU environment ministers last month approved the principle, although they identified three major concerns about the plan that could yet be serious stumbling blocks.

    T&E has always welcomed the idea of life-cycle criteria, saying they would set targets that benefit the best fuels rather than simply giving blanket support for biofuels, and would also reduce demand for ‘bad oil’ (fuels from oils extracted in environmentally damaging ways).

    The idea was expected to face strong resistance, and four countries (GB/GR/I/PL) signalled they were firmly against it. But at last month’s meeting, the 27 nations were said to have ‘largely agreed in supporting the setting of a target for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions from fuels’, with only Italy still seriously against it.

    T&E policy officer Kerstin Meyer said: ‘It is a significant development that the ministers support Article 7a. This is an important measure in efforts to clean up fuel production and to avoid dirty fuels produced from tar sands and coal.’

    The three areas of concern highlighted by EU environment ministers are:
    • the need for clear and harmonised methods to calculate life-cycle emissions
    • the need to clarify the relationship of the fuel proposal to other legislation, in particular the proposed target for biofuels
    • the need to have sustainability criteria in biofuels production

    MEPs get the chance to express their views later this month when the Parliament’s environment committee decides what changes it wants made, and the amount of support for sustainability criteria will be closely monitored. The full Parliament votes on the draft legislation in January.

    In a separate development, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on the Right to Food is demanding an international five-year ban on producing biofuels as part of efforts to combat soaring food prices. Jean Ziegler said the conversion of farming land for biomass crops had caused agricultural prices to rocket, which in turn was forcing poorer countries to import food at great cost.

    This news story is taken from the November 2007 edition of T&E Bulletin.