Thursday

24th May 2018

EU biofuel policy will increase CO2 emissions, study says

  • '[The] use of additional conventional biofuels up to 2020 ... would lead to 80.5 percent and 167 precent more greenhouse gas emissions' (Photo: jurvetson)

An EU target to produce 10 percent of transport energy needs from renewable sources by 2020 will actually increase the level of greenhouse gas emissions produced by the bloc unless changes are made, an independent study has said.

Forecast increases in EU biofuel use as a result of the policy goal will lead to a mass conversion of natural habitats into fields of biofuel crops as overseas producers strive to meet the added demand, the report published by the Institute for European Environmental Policy on Monday (8 November) says.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Natural lands, including rainforests and savannah, store and sequester carbon in their soil and biomass as plants grow each year, making them important components in the flight against climate change, caused by rising CO2 levels.

"The additional demand for these fuels is anticipated to lead to between 4.1 and 6.9 million hectares of indirect land use change (ILUC), i.e. an area equivalent to just larger than Belgium to just under that of the Republic of Ireland," says the report, which is backed by a large number of environmental and development NGOs.

The document's authors calculated these figures using recently released studies by the European Commission, based on data from 23 member state plans (NREAPs) which outline how national governments intend to reach the renewable energy target, outlined in the bloc's 2009 Renewable Energy Directive.

"[The] use of additional conventional biofuels up to 2020 on the scale anticipated in the 23 NREAPs would lead to between 80.5 percent and 167 precent more greenhouse gas emissions than meeting the same need through fossil fuel use," says the report.

The damning conclusion comes at a critical juncture in the EU legislative process, with the commission due to release its own report on land use change by the end of this year.

This in turn is likely to lead to new a legislative proposal next year, possibly calling for indirect land use change effects to be taken into account when selecting which biofuels member states should use to reach the 10 percent transport target.

For its part, the commission has rejected the main findings of Monday's report, saying the EU has enough unused agricultural land to meet the expected increase in biofuel demand. "The renewable energy directive says very clearly that it is not allowed to to chop down forests to produce biofuels," an official said.

The high-stakes game has resulted in a pitched battle in Brussels, as both biofuel producers and environmental NGOs seek to gain the upper hand.

The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) is among those who say the recent commission studies are inherently flawed, failing to take into account important characteristics of certain individual states.

Emmanuel Desplechin, the group's chief representative to the EU, dismissed the problem of indirect land changes and pointed to a Brazilian government plan that forbids sugarcane production in environmentally sensitive areas. "The EU studies failed to use enough international experts who can point these issues out," he told this website.

Second-generation biofuels

The growing debate has refocused some attention on long-awaited second generation biofuels, those produced from residual non-food parts of current crops, such as stems and leaves, rather than the food crop itself as is the case for current biofuels.

The commission has tried to promote member-state use of second generation fuels by means of a 'double counting' system under the Renewable Energy Directive, but national plans make little reference to them.

"While the commission promised the directive would stimulate greater use of second-generation biofuels - it is clear from member states' targets that this was a total deception, or at least overblown optimism," said Friends of the Earth campaigner Robbie Blake.

Some businesses are also unhappy with the slow progress in this area.

"The spirit of the renewable energy directive is good but the double-counting system is not enough," Lars Hansen, president of Novozymes Europe, told EUobserver in a recent interview.

The Danish company produces enzymes needed to break down tough agricultural waste products and allow biofuels to be produced. "Our message is that the technique is ready but that its not going to move unless the regulatory framework is correct," he said.

A number of green groups also criticise second-generation biofuel production, arguing that the fuel requires increased use of fertiliser to replace lost soil nutrients.

MEPs approve plan to put cap on older biofuels

The European Parliament's environment committee Tuesday approved a plan to try and steer investors away from traditional types of biofuels that have had negative side-effects on food prices, environment and climate change.

Interview

Car industry 'only listens to targets', warns lead MEP

'You can't reduce your CO2 emissions if you don't have targets in place,' says MEP Miriam Dalli. She will tell the European Parliament on Wednesday cars should be 50 percent cleaner by 2030, whilst the Commission proposed 30 percent.

Opinion

More commitment to renewables from Council, please

More and more consumers are likely to invest in solar panels in the future as it becomes simpler to produce one's own electricity, writes Monique Goyens, director general of BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  2. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  3. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  5. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  7. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  10. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  11. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach
  12. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May

Latest News

  1. 'Killer robot' projects eligible for EU defence fund
  2. Funding for European values needs radical changes
  3. Feeble EU format deflates Zuckerberg 'hearing'
  4. Are EU data watchdogs staffed for GDPR?
  5. EU pessimistic on permanent US trade exemption
  6. US asks EU to go after Russian and African villains
  7. Facebook threatened with removal from EU-US data pact
  8. Defence firms 'reap benefits' of advice to EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  2. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  5. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  7. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  8. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  9. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  10. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  11. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight