Unsustainable Biofuels

An Taisce is working to tackle unsustainable biofuels policy in the EU

The EU's Renewable Energy Directive provides that Member States must (collectively) generate 20% of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. For transport the figure is set at 10%. On the surface this may seem to be a positive development. However, the policy is raising food prices, driving land grabs, and due to Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) may in fact be leading to increased greenhouse gas emissions. The root of the problem is that fuel crops are by default classified as renewable. The use of bio-ethanol and bio-diesel is by far the easiest and cheapest way for Member States to increase the renewable fuels in their fuel for transport mix. Instead of using agricultural bi-products, farmers are being displaced in many developing countries by companies producing First Generation Land Based Biofuels for European cars. This means that such farmers are being denied access to the land on which they rely for food. Farmers in this situation often resort to converting adjacent uncultivated land for agricultural use, causing increased greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss.

An Taisce, along with a consortium of European NGOs, has been lobbying to have the Renewable Energy Directive amended with the introduction of a cap on First Generation Land Based Biofuels of 5% and mandatory ILUC accounting. Such a proposal was prepared by the European Commission, and was spearheaded by Corinne Lepage, a French MEP. However, the proposal was weakened in the European Parliament to include a 7% cap and watered down ILUC accounting, and was subsequently rejected by the Council of the European Union (i.e. the Member States) in December 2013. The proposal was rejected by a slim majority and so NGOs remain hopeful that it can be adopted at the next opportunity in June 2014. Although the deal has been watered down significantly, An Taisce believes it would represent an improvement and curb the current harm that is being done.