Transport and Environment (T&E)

MEPs add weight to land-use concerns

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Source: Transport and Environment (T&E)

A group of MEPs has written to leading commissioners, expressing ‘serious concern’ about the issue of indirect land-use change (Iluc) caused by biofuels production. Their letter follows the publication last month of a report commissioned by nine NGOs showing the additional emissions of greenhouse gases likely to be caused by an increase in use of biofuels if EU biofuels policy doesn’t change. It also comes amid signs that the biofuels industry is struggling to attract finance.
In their letter to the commissioners for climate change, energy, environment and agriculture, the seven MEPs say Iluc is ‘threatening to undermine two of the main elements of the EU’s climate change policy’: the renewable energy and fuel quality directives. They warn that ‘if the Commission does not present a robust legislative proposal on Iluc, these two directives threaten to exacerbate rather than reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the energy and transport sectors, and will ultimately damage biodiversity, exacerbate rural conflict and impact negatively on food prices globally.’

The seven include four coordinators of the environment committee, its chair, and the former rapporteur for the Renewable Energy Directive.
Last month, nine NGOs published a report commissioned by the Institute for European Environmental Policy, which looked at the likely environmental impact of meeting national biofuels targets. It concluded that once land use change is included the additional biofuels used will be responsible for between 81% and 167% more greenhouse gases than fossil fuels and require twice the size of Belgium in new land to grow them.

There are signs that concerns over biofuels green credentials are affecting investment in the sector. Reuters reports that the biofuels industry is having difficulty attracting finance as uncertainty remains over how much of a market there will be for fuels produced from biomass. The uncertainty is combined with government budget cuts which are causing less money to be available through tax advantages for biofuels.

In an interview with the Reuters news agency earlier this month, the head of a British biofuels company called for a clear European policy which favoured biofuels that provided the greatest environmental benefits. Alwyn Hughes of Ensus said, ‘The (biofuels) industry is being held back by a lack of robust discrimination between what is good and what is bad.’

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