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EP Environment Committee proposes ILUC criteria in biofuels legislation

12 July 2013

The Environment Committee of the European Parliament adopted amendments to the proposed biofuels legislation that would introduce mandatory indirect land use change (ILUC) factors in the calculation of GHG effects of biofuels and cap at 5.5% the use of crop-based biofuels in transportation.

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This decision represents a strong voice to reverse the EU biofuels targets, that in view of the current science bring more harm than benefit to the environment. The call to implement ILUC calculations in the legislation goes beyond the original proposal by the European Commission, which would require ILUC effects to be reported, but not counted towards GHG emission reductions or increases. While the 5.5% cap on food crop biofuels, such as rapeseed or soy biodiesel, is half percent shy of the 5% target proposed by the Commission, it is one percent less than the 6.5% limit suggested last month by the parliamentary Energy Committee.

The Renewable Energy Directive (2009/28/EC) adopted in 2009 requires a 10% share of biofuels in the transportation sector, and the Fuel Quality Directive (98/70/EC) as amended in 2009 (2009/30/EC) sets a target of a 6% GHG reduction for fuels used in the transport sector in 2020. These targets are now to be reversed—at least partially—as scientific evidence indicates that the GHG emission benefit of biofuels has been overestimated. When ILUC emissions are taken into account—for example when biofuel production causes food production to be displaced to non-agricultural land such as forests—biofuels may produce an increase in GHG emissions. For example, according to work by the Joint Research Centre (JRC, the research organization of the European Commission), GHG emissions from one liter of biodiesel made from imported soybeans can be equivalent to burning nearly two liters of petroleum diesel fuel. In addition, the EU biofuel mandates have been causing massive environmental degradation in palm oil producing countries, where jungle has been converted into palm plantations, and put upward pressures on food prices.

The amendments adopted yesterday by the Environment Committee call for setting a separate sub-target for advanced biofuels (such as biofuels made from wastes and from algae) in the transport sector. The weighting of advanced biofuels towards the 10% target should be also increased—a move that could allow meeting the 10% target, at least nominally, in the absence of advanced biofuels in the market.

Source: European Parliament | Reuters