European Commission urged to revamp bioenergy and shipping policies

The European Commission has been greeted with across-the-board support from MEPs to include emissions from shipping in the European Union's 2030 emissions reduction target, while non-profits are also calling for improved bioenergy policies.

A new proposal from parliamentary groups, including the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), Greens and the liberals (ALDE) and the European’s People Party (EPP), has called on the EC to amend the EU emissions trading system (ETS) to include emissions from shipping.

The groups believe that by allowing the shipping industry to purchase ETS allowances from 2021, around 20% of the revenues sourced from these purchases could be funnelled back into the industry to spend on efficiency improvement measures.

Under this scheme – which would also allow ship owners to pay an equivalent into new climate funds – carbon-saving retrofits, new innovations and port charges would be introduced to the industry. Transport & Environment estimates that this would generate €1bn at the outset.

T&E’s shipping officer Sotiris Raptis said: “The well-below 2°C warming limit set by the Paris Agreement will be impossible to meet unless Europe and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) introduce measures to cut shipping emissions. Shipping is the only transport sector that is not contributing to Europe’s climate goals. This needs to end as there is no reasonable excuse for this special treatment.”

With emissions from shipping and aviation set to skyrocket without international frameworks, the MEPs have based the new proposal on the existing EU monitoring system (MRV), which would keep administrative and implementation costs to a minimum. Ships arriving or departing from EU ports would have the choice of purchasing allowances directly from the EU ETS as a means to cover emissions, or pay the equivalent into a fund that will purchase allowances on the ship’s behalf.

Robust biofuel policies

One potential method to reduce emissions from shipping is the use of biofuels. The Sustainable Shipping Initiative is already exploring how biofuels could be used as an energy source through to 2040.

But as research mounts suggesting that bioenergy could be worse for the environment than fossil fuels, a group of non-profits – including Oxfam, Fern and Greenpeace – have published a new report outlining the measures that the EC should adopt to ensure that bioenergy is “truly” low-carbon and resource efficient.

The ‘A new EU sustainable bioenergy policy report’ has been published after the EC announced it was willing to listen to new proposals in order to improve sustainable bioenergy policies for the heating, electricity and transport sectors.

The potential reform, which would see the EC’s Climate and Energy Package for 2030 adapted, calls on the EC to limit the use of biomass in energy production due to the negligible carbon savings that it offers.

“The use of bioenergy can cause significant direct and indirect carbon emissions,” the report states. “EU policy must therefore include guarantees to ensure that bioenergy use results in robust and verifiable greenhouse gas savings. Regrettably, the current EU and international policy frameworks are not fit for this purpose.

“EU policies should therefore secure both energy and resource efficiency. Energy installations using biomass should meet minimum conversion efficiency requirements, promoting combined production of heat and power over electricity-only installations.”

Other recommendations listed in the report would see a cascading system introduced to create an “efficient and optimal” framework for biomass resource use; while guarantees should also be introduced to ensure that biomass use leads to “robust and verifiable” emissions savings.

The report also calls for the existing 7% limit on the share on biofuels in the transport sector made from food and energy crops to be lowered. The report also criticises current certification schemes, claiming that a “comprehensive and binding” set of criteria should be introduced.

The calls for reform follows on from the EC’s announcement that it plans to introduce efficiency standards for new cars, vans and trucks by the mid-2020s. The Commission also recently revealed that the EU is “doing its homework” in regards to ratifying the Paris Agreement.

A New EU Sustainable Bionenergy Policy by Matt Mace on Scribd

Matt Mace

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