EU agrees 7% cap on 'harmful' biofuels

The European Parliament's Environment Committee has agreed to cap the amount of crop-based biofuel used in the transport sector at 7%.

Using crop-based biofuels - such as maize and rapeseed - can have unintended environmental impacts

Using crop-based biofuels - such as maize and rapeseed - can have unintended environmental impacts

The decision, confirmed by the Committee today (14 April) is expected to be approved by the full Parliament later this month.

The new rules will also require fuel suppliers and the European Commission to report on indirect land use change (ILUC) emissions for the first time.

The legislation is intended to curb the negative impacts associated with crop-based biofuels which can include deforestation, less CO2 absorption and potential food shortages.


The ruling has already proved controversial, with sustainable-transport lobby group Transport and Environment 'cautiously welcoming' the deal, while Oxfam and the Green Party claimed the limit is too high.

Pietro Caloprisco, senior policy officer at Transport & Environment, said: "After years of industry and member state lobbying, this agreement is far weaker than the Commission's original proposal. Nevertheless, it sends a clear signal that land-based biofuels have no future role to play in Europe."

'Shun food crops'

European representatives of the Green party were rather more scathing, calling the deal a "major missed opportunity".

Green climate spokesperson Bas Eickhout said: "Feeding crops into cars has fuelled rising food prices and rainforest destruction and the EU should not be further exacerbating these trends by promoting the use of agricultural land for fuel.

"We should be shunning the use of food crops for fuel altogether but a 7% 'cap' is clearly too high and will allow for further increasing the large share of climate-damaging biofuels in our fuel mix."

First step

Oxfam's EU biofuels expert Marc-Olivier Herman added: "The European Parliament and governments have finally decided to tone down a harmful biofuels policy that has only contributed to deprive poor people of food and accelerate the climate change it claims to fight.

"However, this new 7% cap on crop-based biofuels can only be a first step. Europe must phase out these fuels completely so they can no longer jeopardize food security and contribute to climate change."

The day before the vote, Oxfam released a report claiming that the EU could lower its net imports of grain and oilseeds by up to 27 million tons by ending its biofuels support by 2020. "Less biofuels would mean more food security," said the charity.

Biofuels at Sustainability Live 2015 

Fuel made from waste could replace 16% of all the fuel used on European roads by 2030 according to research, but the UK is failing to harness this bioenergy potential. The uptake of biofuels will be discussed in detail at Sustainability Live next week, with a session at the Energy Recovery Theatre examining the opportunities and challenges in converting waste to fuel. 

Find out more and register to attend Sustainability Live 2015 for FREE here.

Brad Allen


biofuels | european commission | transport


Waste & resource management
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