Biofuels reform ends 7-year row
30.04.2015 - The European Parliament has given the go-ahead on a new law limiting the use of harmful crop-based biofuel in the transport sector. The decision marks a breakthrough in the EU’s approach to biofuels.
MEPs and EU member states can finally breathe a sigh of relief. After more than seven years of political quarrelling and lengthy negotiations, on 28th April the European Parliament endorsed a policy that will cease supporting land-hungry biofuels such as biodiesel from oilseed rape and palm oil. According to environmental organisations this does not go far enough. They claim other issues need to be addressed, such as the increasing use of maize for biogas production and the unsustainable harvesting and burning of wood from natural forests for the generation of electricity.
On the one hand, biofuels can contribute to reducing global warming emissions in the transport sector, but according to the European Commission, it has also been discovered that some biofuels do more harm than good to the environment. The new law will limit the use of harmful biofuels to 7% which compete with crops grown on agricultural land while allowing member states to set lower national limits. The final version of the paper also sets an indicative 0.5% target for so-called second generation biofuels, whose contribution would count double towards the 10% renewable energy target for transport. “With this limit, Europe will prevent emissions of up to 320 million tonnes of CO2, which would otherwise have been caused by extra bad biofuels needed to meet the 10% target. The emissions avoided equal to Poland’s carbon emissions in 2012,” Pietro Caloprisco told Euractiv, senior policy officer at pressure group Transport & Environment (T&E).
Unlike first generation biofuels such as biodiesel, ethanol or biogas, which been derived from sources like starch, sugar, animal fats and vegetable oil, second generation biofuels are produced sustainably by using biomass residual from non-food parts of crops or crops not used for food purposes. The new legislation sends a clear message to industry: “Maybe this is not the end of bad biofuels now. But this surely is the beginning of the end for pouring food into our tanks. The message is clear: land-based biofuels have no future in Europe, at least after 2020,” said Caloprisco.
Welcoming the new legislation, Raffaello Garofalo, the Secretary General of European Biodiesel Board, said on behalf of the industry that it will continue to “improve the sustainability biodiesel, in order to fully contribute to the decarbonisation of fuels in the EU in the next decade". The EU now has an opportunity to support better solutions for the transport sector such as energy efficiency, sustainable advanced (waste-based) biofuels and renewable electricity.
The new legislation will enter into force in 2017.