Energy ministers delay reform of EU biofuel rules

Press release - December 12, 2013
Brussels – Energy ministers meeting in Brussels today increased EU biofuel policy uncertainty by delaying its reform. In doing so, they are failing in their duty to fix a policy which has a heavy toll on forests, climate and food security, Greenpeace warned.

The ministers were due to vote today on a proposal by the Lithuanian EU presidency that represents a serious deterioration of the original reform announced last year, according to Greenpeace [1]. The Lithuanian deal would have allowed for an increased use of biofuels produced from crops grown on farmland, despite the serious negative consequences that these fuels have due to their Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) effects [2]. The deal also contained a UK proposal to lower the overall EU 20% target for renewable energy by double counting the contribution from advanced biofuels that was criticised by many countries, including Germany.

The Lithuanian Presidency made too many concessions to hardliners like Poland and Hungary, which nonetheless in the end voted against the proposal. The issue will now be delayed into 2014. Greenpeace calls on the upcoming Greek EU Presidency to pay more attention to countries like Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg and Italy, who called for a more progressive deal.  The European Parliament had expressed its opinion on the reform last September [3].

Greenpeace EU forest policy director Sébastien Risso said: “Today’s failure to act on the destructive consequences of EU biofuel policy is unconscionable. The use of food in our petrol tanks is spurring deforestation, higher greenhouse gas emissions, and pressuring food markets. We call upon ministers to come to their senses and rapidly agree a progressive solution to the problems in EU biofuel policy. The growth of biofuels competing with food for land must be halted and this cannot wait.”

Greenpeace has joined with other leading environment and development NGOs to call on governments and the EU to reform its existing biofuel policy to prevent ILUC impacts and preserve food security. The best way to do this is to:

  • Have a strong cap on the use of biofuels from crops grown on farm land at current consumption levels (around 5%) or less.
  • Full and mandatory accounting for ILUC emissions from biofuel production. Only biofuels that significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and do not compete for land with food should be supported with public subsidies.
  • Put our transport onto a genuinely green path by increasing energy savings/efficiency in transport, speeding up the uptake of renewable electricity for cars and trains, and encouraging the development of small quantities of truly sustainable advanced biofuels produced from waste and residues.

 

Notes:

[1] A joint NGO briefing prepared in advance of the meeting,‘Biofuels: EU Energy Ministers must choose right path for the world’s climate & food security’ is available here: http://www.greenpeace.org/eu-unit/en/Publications/2013/NGO-media-briefing-on-ILUC-and-biofuels/

[2] Indirect land use change can also happen when land which could be used to grow food is used for fuel. Extra land would therefore be needed to grow food, land that is usually found in tropical regions where pristine forests are cut down to make way for agriculture. This land clearing reduces the ‘carbon sinks’ (the trees and vegetation that absorb CO2) and pumps vast amounts of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, negating the intended aim of the EU biofuels policy.

[3] Greenpeace,11 September 2013, ‘EU Parliament casts contradictory vote on biofuels’: http://www.greenpeace.org/eu-unit/en/News/2013/EU-Parliament-biofuels-vote-exposes-policy-contradictions/

 

Contacts:
Sebastien Risso - Greenpeace EU forests policy director: +32 (0) 496 127 009,

Ed Davitt - Greenpeace media officer: +32 (0)476 988 584,

This press release is also available on www.greenpeace.eu

For breaking news and comment on EU affairs: www.twitter.com/GreenpeaceEU

Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace. Greenpeace does not accept donations from governments, the EU, businesses or political parties.