Today’s vote by members of the Environment Committee against the proposed fuel quality rules sends a strong message to the European Commission that its implementing measures are too weak and fail to discourage oil companies from using and investing in the world’s dirtiest oil. The vote also reinforces MEPs’ support for a strong implementation of the Fuel Quality Directive’s (FQD) decarbonisation target and its continuation after 2020.
Agreed in April 2009, the FQD obliges fuel suppliers in Europe to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity of transport fuel by 6% by 2020. The law lacked rules on how to account for GHG emissions from different sources of fossil fuels, which represent 95% of EU’s transport fuel market, and electricity. This meant that the enacted target could only be met with biofuels.
Today MEPs rejected the Commission’s proposed implementing measures as they require fuel suppliers to use just one single EU average value for oil (one for petrol and one for diesel), whether their products originate from high-carbon sources like tar sands or not. This system would not discourage the use of the most polluting oil. The committee asked for the Commission to go back to its original proposal from 2011, which obliged oil companies to report each type of fuel (feedstock) they bring to the market. The 2011 proposal was also supported by the Commission’s impact assessment for being the most environmentally robust and accurate.
Reacting to the vote, Nusa Urbancic of Transport & Environment, said: “MEPs’ rejection of the fuel quality rules sends a clear signal to the Commission that it needs to step up its ambition and deal properly with the most polluting types of oil in its post-2020 plan. 2014 is on track to becoming the hottest year on record. As much as possible, oil, especially of the unconventional variety, needs to stay in the ground.”
However, the proposal will still encourage the use of other low-carbon fuels, such as electricity in transport. It also mandates oil companies to report the origin and trade name of their crude oil, bringing some transparency to this opaque industry, which could represent the first step for something better after 2020.
Nusa Urbancic added: “MEPs are faced with a very flawed law that won’t deliver on its original objectives of discouraging investments in high-carbon oil. We hope that when designing 2030 framework, the Commission will spend more time listening to the science and democratically-elected members of the Parliament than to oil lobbyists and foreign governments that try to undermine European climate policies.”
The objection to the FQD implementing measures will be debated and voted in the December plenary session. If the objection is adopted, the Commission will have to come up with a new proposal that addresses Parliament’s concerns.
The Parliament also voted in February 2014 to continue with the FQD after 2020 and improve carbon accounting. *
Transport is almost entirely dependent on oil: it emits 31% of the EU’s total CO2 emissions and will become the biggest source of climate-changing emissions soon after 2020. The FQD is a key law to promote cleaner transport fuels and is part of the EU's wider goals to cut carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2020.