M embers of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee voted today to limit at 6% the use of land-based biofuels that can count toward the 10% renewable energy target in transport by 2020, reads a T&E communique. They also approved accounting of indirect emissions (known as ILUC) from biofuels under the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) with a review clause to put them in all pieces of legislation after 2020. This vote will put the brakes on the growing consumption of biofuels that increase greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional diesel and petrol.

Reacting to the vote, T&E’s energy manager Nusa Urbancic said: “We welcome MEPs’ determination to limit the amount of bad biofuels the EU will blend in its petrol and diesel. Although in some respects weaker than the original proposal from the Commission, this vote send a clear signal that the European Parliament wants cleaner alternative fuels that actually reduce emissions.”

Significantly, Parliament widens the scope of the 6% cap to not only cover food-based biofuels, but also energy crops, that is, inedible crops that still compete for land with food crops. This decision correctly identifies land use, not the type of crop, as the key environmental challenge of biofuels. It would mean that Member States could not subsidise or mandate this type of biofuel after 2020.

The Parliament also strengthened sustainability criteria for advanced biofuels, mainly made from municipal waste and residues, putting forward an obligation to comply with the waste hierarchy: that it is better to reuse or recycle waste than to burn it.

EU Member States spent €6 billion in 2011 in support of the biofuels industry. This public support was necessary to sustain the 4.5% market share biofuels had in 2011 – below the 6% freeze voted for today in the Environment Committee.

“Rapporteur Torvalds now needs to stand his ground when negotiating a deal with the Latvian presidency, especially on ILUC factors and the cap. Otherwise, billions in taxpayers’ money will continue to be wasted on harmful biofuels that in many cases pollute more than fossil fuels,” Nusa Urbancic concluded.

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