7th Jul 2020

Brazil calls on Brussels to scrap biofuel tariffs

  • Biofuels - the way forward? (Photo: European Community, 2006)

Brazil - the world's largest producer of biofuels – has suggested the EU should scrap its biofuel import tariffs, challenging it to both compete more fairly in international trade while finding ways to live up to its green targets.

Speaking at an International Biofuels Conference in Brussels on Thursday (5 July), Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva said it was a historic opportunity for the developed world to help build a "prosperous and fair world" but that the barriers to entering the agricultural market in the developed world, such as the EU, were preventing this.

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"We cannot send out contradictory signals. The very governments who reiterated a commitment to sustainable development and to the reduction of greenhouse gases cannot then turn around and create obstacles to turning biofuels into international commodities," he said.

But EU capitals remain very divided on import tariffs with France keen to protects its farmers while Sweden is at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Swedish trade minister Sten Tolgfors on Thursday called on the EU to scrap its tariffs on biofuel imports to increase trade in the commodity. "We must combat all trade barriers," he said at the conference.

EU biofuels target

Biofuels are made of the same products as fossil fuels - plants, trees and animal waste – but have the advantage of being able to be produced straight from the product unlike fossil fuels that have been processed over millions of years.

EU member states vowed in March to replace 10 percent of transport fuel with biofuel made from energy crops by 2020. At the moment, the figure is only 1.8 percent and the European Commission sees the importation of biofuels as a way to reach that goal.

"Europe should be open to accepting that we will import a large part of our biofuel resources," said EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson, also at the conference.

Brussels is keen to use biofuels as an important part of ensuring energy security in the EU and to limit the bloc's greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels like gasoline.

But there are also concerns that production of crops for fuel may contribute to wiping out rainforests as well as to rising food prices in developing countries.

"Our aim must be to develop an EU biofuels policy which meets our objective on security of supply and climate change, while ensuring sustainable development," said European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso.

The EU executive is expected to come forward with a draft law by the end of the year, which will include minimum standards for sustainable biofuels production.

Green groups are keeping a close eye on the commission's legislation progress on biofuels.

"I am pleased that the European Union clearly states the need for standards, but it's too early to say whether I'll be pleased with the final outcome" said Jean-Philippe Denruyter from the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Biofuels - green or mean?

Using biofuels could be one of the ways the EU achieves its goal of being less dependent on fossil fuels from abroad and cutting greenhouse gas emissions. But if they are not produced ethically, they could become yet another contribution to the world's environment problems, warn environment groups.

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