EU agrees to burst biofuels bubble after 2020

After more than 10 years of debate, the European Parliament has today (28 April) agreed new laws to limit the use of crop-based biofuels across the continent.

EU lawmakers ruled that biofuels can compete with food production, contribute to climate change, and put pressure on land use

EU lawmakers ruled that biofuels can compete with food production, contribute to climate change, and put pressure on land use

The new rules effectively limit the use of biofuels in the transport sector at 7%, which count towards the 10% renewable energy target in transport by 2020.

The decision will prevent up to 320 million tonnes of CO2 - equal to Poland's total carbon emissions in 2012 - from entering the atmosphere. It has dually been welcomed by green groups and industry bodies alike.

Friends of the Earth Europe's biofuels campaigner Robbie Blake said: "Let no-one be in doubt, the biofuels bubble has burst. These fuels do more harm than good for people, the environment and the climate. The EU's long-awaited move to put the brakes on biofuels is a clear signal to the rest of the world that this is a false solution to the climate crisis. This must spark the end of burning food for fuel."

Controversial

Under the reform agreed today, oil companies and the European Commission will also need to report the full environmental impact of biofuels, including indirect land use change (ILUC) emissions.

The ruling has proved controversial, with sustainable-transport lobby group Transport and Environment (T&E), Oxfam and the Green Party all agreeing that the 7% limit is still too high.

After years of discussion, however, the compromise that was endorsed by the European Parliament lacks concrete and harmonized measures.

“Our industry has been calling for regulatory certainty for years. What has been agreed now is a first step but uncertainty continues. An opportunity to kick start the roll out of advanced biofuels in the EU has been missed“, states Marko Janhunen, Chair of LSB.

Leaders of Sustainable Biofuels (LSB), said the compromise that was endorsed by the European Parliament lacks concrete and harmonized measures. LSB chair Marko Janhunen said: "Our industry has been calling for regulatory certainty for years. What has been agreed now is a first step but uncertainty continues. An opportunity to kick start the roll out of advanced biofuels in the EU has been missed."

Pietro Caloprisco, senior policy officer at Transport & Environment (T&E), agreed that the idea of a cap is in line with the Commission's 2030 climate and energy communication that states first-generation biofuels should not be supported after 2020 due to ILUC emissions. 

"Maybe this is not the end of bad biofuels now, but this surely is the beginning of the end for pouring food in our tanks," said Caloprisco. "The message is clear: land-based biofuels have no future in Europe, at least after 2020."

Important lesson

T&E, along with nine environmental organisations, believes the biofuels reform can draw important lessons that should now be applied in legislation on the use of biomass, such as wood and agricultural residues, for all bioenergy purposes.

Caloprisco concluded: "Europe should learn from the biofuels reform and get things right from the beginning on bioenergy. Thus, we urge the European Commission to introduce the necessary sustainability checks for all bioenergy to ensure we don't make the same mistake twice. Making the same mistake twice on bioenergy is not a mistake, it's a deliberate choice."

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Luke Nicholls


Tags

biofuels | biomass | CO2 | european commission | Food & drink | transport

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Energy efficiency & low-carbon
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