The European Commission yesterday published proposals to limit the use of food-based biofuels amid concerns that the region’s biofuel target is driving up food prices.
The region is currently working towards a target of using 10% of renewable energy fuels in transport by 2020. But the Renewable Energy Directive could now be revised to reduce this target to just 5% for food-based biofuels.
For the first time, in addition, indirect land use change (ILUC) factors will have to be taken into consideration when fuel suppliers and member states report back on the greenhouse gas savings of biofuels.
And new biofuel production installations will have to reach a minimum greenhouse gas saving threshold of 60%.
The measures are aimed at limiting the detrimental environmental effects of food-based biofuels and stimulating the development of alternative or advanced options, also known as second and third generation biofuels, produced from non-food feedstock like waste, straw and algae, says the Commission.
Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger says the new proposals will give new incentives to the “best performing” biofuels.
“For biofuels to help us combat climate change, we must use truly sustainable biofuels. We must invest in biofuels that achieve real emission cuts and do not compete with food,” adds Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard.
She emphasized that the EC does not want to “close down” first-generation biofuels but wants to give a “clear signal” that advanced biofuels are the only way forward.
But environmental group Friends of the Earth said the proposals had been watered down and branded the process “a complete farce”.
While the reduction of the target to 5% is welcome, the fact that fuel suppliers will not be held accountable for ILUC emissions, as had been originally planned, means the change will have little or no effect.
“Europe’s biofuels policy will continue to undermine efforts to tackle climate change,” says campaigner Kenneth Richter. “Some of the crop-based biofuels used in Europe cause more climate-changing emissions than the petrol and diesel they are meant to replace.”
The group wants to see the target for biofuels to be scrapped altogether.
For further information:
EU signals U-turn in biofuels policy (24-Sept)
European biofuel targets are driving up food prices, warns Oxfam (18-Sept)
18 October 2012