Commission will study impacts of biofuels in land use change

The European Commission published 22 December a report on indirect land use change related to biofuels and bioliquids, acknowledging that this pretice can reduce greenhouse gas emissions savings associated with biofuels, but also identifying a number of uncertainties associated with the available models. The Commission will make an impact assessment and take into consideration potential changes to the existing legislation.

The 2009 Renewable Energy and Fuel Quality Directives set targets of a 10% share of renewable energy in the transport sector and a 6% greenhouse gas reductions for fuels used in the transport sector in 2020, where the contribution from biofuels is expected to be significant. In order to avoid possible negative side-effects, both Directives impose sustainability criteria which include provisions to prevent the conversion of areas of high biodiversity and carbon sinks such as forest and wetlands.

In this regard, the report on land use change due to biofuels adopted by the European Commission summarises the analytical work carried out by the Commission over the last two years, including an overview of the consultation exercises, involving both experts and the general public, that have been conducted on this issue.

The Commission will carry out an Impact Assessment of a shortlist of the potential policy approaches for dealing with this issue which could lead, if necessary to a legislative proposal for amending the Renewable Energy and Fuel Quality Directives.

There are some possible approaches which the Impact Assessment will consider including taking no action for the time being, while continuing to monitor; increasing the minimum greenhouse gas saving threshold for biofuels and bioliquids; introducing additional sustainability requirements on certain categories of biofuels and bioliquids; or attributing a quantity of greenhouse gas emissions to biofuels reflecting the estimated indirect land use change impact.

As highlighted by Climate Action and Energy Commissioners it is necessary to ensure that the biofuels promoted by the European Union really deliver clear greenhouse gas savings, and that any action in this field must be undergone with precaution. Although having developed robust sustainability criteria for biofuel production, any unwanted impacts that may be caused globally as a result of the additional demand should not be ignored.