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EU presents new biofuel rules with delays on ILUC measures

January 14, 2013

On 17 October, the European Commission (EC) formally presented its proposed new rules governing biofuels and their impact on energy and climate change, which delayed the implementation of any crop-specific measures on indirect land use change (ILUC) (see also News, OFI Oct/Nov 2012).

On 17 October, the European Commission (EC) formally presented its proposed new rules governing biofuels and their impact on energy and climate change, which delayed the implementation of any crop-specific measures on indirect land use change (ILUC) (see also News, OFI Oct/Nov 2012).

The new rules will require amendments to the EU’s biofuels and fuel quality directives and must be agreed by EU lawmakers and governments, in a process that could take up to two years.
Widely seen as a U-turn, the new “compromise paper”  backtracks on initial draft legislation that included plans to introduce mandatory measures for biofuels based on the notional impact of ILUC for specific feedstock crops (as required by the EU’s Fuel Quality Directive). As a result, first generation biofuels may still be counted towards EU targets for greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction.
The EC said that 15 ILUC studies had been run on different biofuels crops which concluded, on average, that their use “might have” an impact equal to the destruction of natural carbon sinks (such as rainforests or peat lands) equivalent to some 4.5M ha of arable land. The new proposals call for a further review of policy and the scientific evidence for ILUC, which must be completed and submitted to the EU Parliament and Council by the end of December 2017.

Meanwhile, all new biofuels installations built after 1 July 2014 must meet the threshold of 60% GHG savings. By 1 December 2017, all biofuels installations operating before 1 July 2014 must meet a threshold of 35% GHG savings, rising to 50% in 2018. While 1 January 2020 remains the deadline for 10% of all EU transport fuels to be sourced from renewable energies, a 5% cap is now imposed on the amount of biofuels derived from food crops that can be used in the 2020 transport mix. After 2020, there will be an end to public subsidy for biofuels crops unless they demonstrate “substantial GHG savings”. There will also be a quadrupling of credits for second- generation biofuels.

EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said the new rules clearly reflected the fact that first generation biofuels were “not the future” but the EC believed it was “charting a clear path” by providing “inputs for the future” without punishing existing investors in the biofuels sector. Environmentalists have described the new proposals as a “missed opportunity” while bodies representing EU farmers and biofuels industries have criticised the proposal to limit biofuels made from food crops, describing ILUC science as “unfounded and immature”.

The ethanol sector has performed better in ILUC studies so far and a Novozymes representative said the EU should support accelerated development of advanced ethanol biofuels made from wastes and residues.


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