EU biofuels proposal - Greenpeace response

Last edited 17 October 2012 at 2:28pm
17 October, 2012

Responding to the EU Commission’s proposals today to limit the use of biofuels in transport, John Sauven, Executive Director of Greenpeace said: 

“The EU Commission’s decision to put a limit on the use of crop-based biofuels is a step in the right direction. 

“The growing use of transport fuels from crops has driven up food prices, led to more deforestation in places like Indonesia to grow palm oil for fuel, and made climate change worse as a result. 

“Simply adding biofuels to petrol and diesel is not the solution to combating global warming. We need now to urgently address the issue of fuel efficiency in our cars, improve public transport, and invest in advanced biofuels that use waste or non-food sources of bioenergy.” 

He added: 

“The most serious flaw in the new European biofuel policy is that it does not hold biofuel suppliers accountable for the emissions from indirect land use change, where crops for biofuel displace food production and as a result more rainforests and peatland are cleared to grow food crops. So fuel suppliers can still use harmful biofuels like palm oil from Indonesia and claim credit for cutting emissions. This needs to change as the regulation winds its way through the European parliament and council.” 


Notes to editors: 

The EU has a target of 10% for renewable energy in transport by 2020. But biofuels have become increasingly controversial because those derived from oil crops such as rape and palm can result in greater carbon emissions than the diesel or petrol they replace by increasing deforestation, as well as higher food prices.

Studies show that some biofuels cause lower emissions of greenhouse gases than the petrol and diesel they replace. But these do not take into account the indirect effects of displacing food production. As farmland is given over to producing fuel, pressure increases elsewhere - destroying rainforests, digging up carbon rich peatlands, and emitting carbon dioxide as they do so. By some estimates, these emissions could, by 2020, be equivalent to putting over 25 million more cars on the road.

The EU regulates the use of biofuels through two laws with a 2020 time horizon. The renewable energy directive (RED) sets a 10% target for renewable energy, mostly biofuels, in transport. The fuel quality directive (FQD) sets a 6% emissions reduction target for transport fuels.

Both laws contain rules for calculating the carbon emissions of biofuels but do not include emissions from indirect land use change (ILUC). ILUC is the process by which land previously used to grow crops for food is converted to grow crops for fuel. 

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