European Parliament votes for controversial biofuel cap

The European Parliament's environment committee (ENVI) has today voted in favour of legislation to cap the percentage of biofuels in European renewable energy transport targets at 5.5%.

Subject to approval, the ENVI committee has also voted for the implementation of indirect land use change ‘(ILUC) factors’. 

These are calculations designed to account for additional emissions rising from ILUC, a process by which the displacement of crop production onto previously unused land leads to the conversion of forests and savannah to agriculture.

The outcome of the 43-21 vote has been cautiously welcomed by green campaigners, who argue that this is a step in the right direction, although the use of food for fuel should be phased out altogether.

However, the impacts of ILUC on the environment are disputed by the biofuel industry and last week NNFCC chief executive Dr Jeremy Tomkinson argued the subject was often misunderstood.  

In addition, the Renewable Energy Association (REA) has argued that the science around ILUC is purely “theoretical” and therefore there could be no justification in incorporating limits.

Moreover, the Industry, Research and Energy Committee (ITRE), which is jointly leading on this issue with ENVI in the European Parliament, recently voted in favour of a 6.5% crop-based biofuels cap and against the incorporation of ‘ILUC factors’.

If the ENVI comittee’s proposals are to stand, it is essential it reaches an agreement with the ITRE, when the subject is put to a vote of the full Parliament plenary on September 10 in Strasbourg.

WWF Renewable Energy senior policy officer Imke Lübbeke said: “The Environment Committee has taken an important step towards ensuring more sustainable biofuels in Europe.

“By deciding to apply the full accounting of climate impacts of biofuel emissions from indirect land-use change to the two relevant laws, MEPs gave the market the right incentives to provide cleaner biofuels.

“As the amendments adopted today will be discussed with the Industry and Energy Committee before the crucial plenary vote in early autumn, MEPs of the ENVI Committee must stand firm and defend their commitment to better biofuels in Europe.”

Conor McGlone

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie