Biofuels reform can wait no longer – letter

25 September 2012

The future of green transport must not include socially and environmentally unsustainable biofuels, a coalition of environment and development campaign groups have said today in a letter to EU energy chief, Günther Oettinger.

The letter, from Friends of the Earth Europe and nine other organisations, is in response to the European Commission's draft proposal [1] on how to reform EU biofuels policy and the 'indirect land use change' (ILUC) impacts of biofuels, where agriculture has to expand to accommodate biofuels demand.

After 21 months of delay, the European Commission has drafted a framework of how to address so-called 'indirect land use change' (ILUC). This happens when biofuels expansion increases overall global demand for agricultural land, met at the expense of forests and natural habitats, causing carbon emissions. The emissions from ILUC mean that many biofuels in Europe's cars, including soy, rapeseed and palm oil, have a worse carbon footprint than normal fossil fuel. [2]

The organisations welcome the progress made by the Commission, saying, "We are pleased that the Commission finally admits that EU biofuels mandates are problematic, and we recognize your initial efforts to limit the adverse impacts of the policy on global food security."

But they go on to say, "Without factoring in ILUC, biofuels can increase greenhouse gas emissions compared to the fossil fuels they replace. It is of paramount importance that the EU stops counting such biofuels towards its renewable energy targets, which are a pillar of the EU response to climate change. The measures proposed in the policy draft that you are considering are therefore the bare minimum that citizens should expect, especially in today's context of a third hike in food prices in five years."

The letter sets out five demands for a stronger European Commission proposal to make sure it adequately addresses the failings of the EU's current biofuels policy.

Friends of the Earth Europe coordinated the letter which is also signed by Transport and Environment, BirdLife Europe, the European Environmental Bureau, ActionAid, Greenpeace, ClientEarth, Climate Action Network Europe, Oxfam International, and FERN. 

***

Notes:

[1] 21 months after the Commission was due to present legislation addressing ILUC, agreement over the reform has now been reached within the Commission, and on Monday (10 September) draft legislation was sent to all Commission Directorates for final consultation. The draft document is available here

[2] ‘ILUC’ means that many biofuels harm the climate even more than the fossil fuels they replace. In 2010, a report for Friends of the Earth Europe estimated that meeting EU biofuels targets will emit CO2 equivalent to adding an extra 14 to 29 million cars on Europe’s roads by 2020. (see www.foeeurope.org/Europe-biofuels-driving-destruction-101110)  

Reports (http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2011/october/tradoc_148289.pdf) for the European Commission have also found that biofuels from palm oil, soy, and rapeseed have a worse carbon footprint than normal diesel.

Friends of the Earth Europe and other campaign groups have consistently called for the carbon accounting loophole that ignores ‘ILUC’ emissions to be corrected in all the EU relevant legislation – both the Renewable Energy Directive and the Fuel Quality Directive.