No U-turn on biofuel policy say's the EU!
The European Union has bowed to pressure from environmental groups and published its first major impact assessment into the effect of biofuel on indirect land use change, following concerns that it could undermine the fuel's stated environmental benefits.
However the EU is sticking by its target requiring 10 per cent of all road transport fuel to come from renewable sources by 2020, with the vast majority likely to come from biofuels and has all but ruled out a U-turn on its biofuels policy, despite some media reports to the contrary.
The new environmental impact study for the EU Biofuels Mandate was published yesterday, and details how different scenarios, such as the use of electric cars and second generation biofuels that do not use agricultural land, would affect the emission reductions that are expected to result from the 10 per cent target.
The EU said that although models in the report show that an increase in the proportion of biofuel results in higher indirect greenhouse gas emissions, the net outcome is still positive compared to use of fossil fuels and would not undermine the environmental viability of biofuels.
However, according to Friends of the Earth, the new report shows that if the proportion of biofuels used rises above 5.6 per cent of all road transport fuels, "there is a real risk that indirect land use change could undermine the environmental viability of biofuels".
The 5.6 per cent figure is obtained by deducting the expected share in 2020 of other renewable road transport fuels from the 10 per cent target. But critics said that the anticipated contribution from other forms of transport, such as electric cars, had been inflated to bolster the case for retaining the 10 per cent target.
Friends of the Earth seized on the report as evidence the EU strategy on biofuels is fundamentally flawed and reiterated its calls for the 10 per cent target to be scrapped.
Adrian Bebb, agrofuels campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth Europe said: "The EU's biofuel policy is looking more and more unsustainable and if not urgently reviewed will lead to deforestation, more climate changing emissions and damage to the environment. It is time to end this madness and bring in real solutions to the climate crisis."
He added that the new report should trigger an urgent review of EU biofuels policy. "How is the EU going to restrict use so that biofuels do not damage the environment or people?" he asked. "The case against the current 10 per cent target is as strong as it ever was."
However, Marlene Holzner, a spokeswoman for EU Energy Commissioner Guenter Oettinger told BusinessGreen.com that the report "provides no basis for calling [the 10 per cent target] into question", and rejected speculation that the EU is preparing a U-turn.
"The aim of the studies is to look into different scenarios and review the effects of the use of biofuels," she said. "This includes for example the change of land use and the impact it has on carbon emissions. Once we know what the impact is, we can minimise the impact if necessary. But there is nothing in this report that tells us that promoting biofuels is wrong."
The report does however conclude by admitting that considerable uncertainty remains regarding the impact of new sustainability criteria on biofuels markets and says that more empirical research into the role of certification and differentiation of biofuels is required.