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EU Should Phase Out Support for Land-Based Biofuels, Lobbies Say

EU Should Phase Out Support for Land-Based Biofuels, Lobbies Say

The European Union should phase out support for land-based biofuels that displace food production and indirectly boost emissions, eight lobbies said in a letter to the bloc's energy ministers.

The groups, including Transport and Environment, Greenpeace and Oxfam, urged the ministers to improve draft legislation on biofuels at their next meeting on Feb. 22, according to the letter published today. The proposal to limit crop-based biofuel production, put forward by the European Commission last year, failed to address the “problematic link” between food and fuel, the lobbies said.

“Few deny that industrial biofuels are not the silver bullet they were once believed to be,” said the groups, which also include ActionAid. “This legislation could stop the EU incentivizing technologies that undermine global food security and climate change mitigation, and could start to set our transport sector on a more sustainable pathway.”

The commission, the 27-nations EU’s regulatory arm in Brussels, proposed in October that first-generation unsustainable biofuels made from crops such as sugar, starch or vegetable oils provide 5 percent of the EU target for transport fuel. The current EU requirement is that at least 10 percent of energy for road and rail transport in 2020 come from renewable sources in all member nations.

The draft legislation needs approval by EU national governments and the European Parliament to enter into force. Biofuels including ethanol and biodiesel are the main renewable energy for transport and offer the prospect of reducing the use of fossil fuels blamed for climate change.

‘Absolute Limit’

The eight lobbies urged governments to amend the commission’s proposal by endorsing “an absolute limit on the consumption of land-based biofuels in transport.” Additionally, the EU should require accounting of emissions linked to indirect land-use change, according to the groups, which also include BirdLife Europe, Friends of the Earth Europe, CIDSE and the European Environmental Bureau.

Ministers should ensure that clear definitions of sustainable waste streams, by-products and residues for biofuels are developed, according to the letter. The groups also called on governments to implement policies to reduce energy use, increase efficiency and accelerate the “renewable- electrification” of the transport system.

Copyright 2013 Bloomberg

Lead image: End of road sign via Shutterstock

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