European Commission

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The European Commission (EC) (website) is a member of the International Biofuels Forum.

Resources

"The mission of the JRC is to provide customer-driven scientific and technical support for the conception, development, implementation and monitoring of EU policies. As a service of the European Commission, the JRC functions as a reference centre of science and technology for the Union.[1]

News

  • Further delay as Commissioners fail to agree biofuels clean-up plan, 2 May 2012 by Greenpeace: "European Commissioners today failed to agree how to close a major loophole in EU biofuels policy. The lack of progress adds to years of delay while the climate impact of harmful biofuels continues to grow, Greenpeace said."
    • "EU biofuels policies are indirectly causing habitat destruction and unforeseen carbon emissions. Sustainability rules for biofuels currently ignore greenhouse gas emissions from the indirect destruction of forests, peatlands and other habitats linked to fuel production from crops - the indirect land use change (ILUC) effect."
    • "In a debate this morning, the EU’s 27 commissioners were unable to agree a common approach on how to account for ILUC...."
    • "A Commission ILUC impact assessment found that habitats more than half the size of Belgium are set to be destroyed to meet EU demand for biofuels by 2020, increasing Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions by more than the total annual emissions of Italy or France."[2]
  • Africa: Stop Human Rights Abuses Fuelled By EU Biofuels Policy, Says Actionaid, 25 April 2012 by ActionAid (London): "As the European Commission is given an opportunity to revise the EU's biofuels targets in 2012, a new ActionAid report reveals that the EU continues to ignore that its biofuels policies are driving up global food prices and pushing people in poor countries off their land."
    • "'Fuel for thought' highlights that increased demand for biofuels may push global food prices to crisis levels; EU's biofuels policies alone could push up oilseed prices by up to 33%, maize by up to 22%, sugar by up to 21% and wheat by up to 10%, between now and 20201."
    • "Laura Sullivan, ActionAid's Head of European Advocacy said: 'If it continues to ignore the impacts of its biofuels policy on people living in some of the poorest parts of the planet, the EU will effectively be sponsoring hunger and human rights abuses on a massive scale'."
  • "The ActionAid report, launched at a biofuels debate with participants from the European Commission, United Nations, NGOs and business, shows how a series of dodgy deals by European companies have led to mass displacements and rights abuses in countries in Africa and Latin America." [4]
  • ‘This must be the most researched subject in the EU’s history!’, 19 March 2012 by Nusa Urbancic for European Federation for Transport and Environment: "Two new reports are expected to put more pressure on the Commission over its biofuels policy. Both add to the growing bank of evidence that under current policies, changes in land use caused by growing biofuels crops will wipe out the climate benefits of using certain biofuels, especially in the case of biodiesel."
    • "One report on the cost-effectiveness of policies to decarbonise transport, due to be published by a group of consultancies later this month, says most models show that indirect land-use change (Iluc) will mean ‘a net increase of greenhouse gases’ for biodiesel. The other report, also still to be published, says that if biofuels’ lifecycle emissions, rather than just direct emissions, from Iluc are taken into account, the EU would achieve little more than half its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by 2050." [5]
  • Grandfathering options under an EU ILUC policy by Ecofys, March 2012: "The European Commission is expected to publish an Impact Assessment and legislative proposal on the issue of Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) associated with biofuel production. The introduction of an ILUC policy measure in the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) and Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) could impact current investments and jobs in the EU biofuel industry. Ecofys investigated on behalf of Transport&Environment to what extent the biofuel sector may need protection - so called 'grandfathering'- against the introduction of an EU policy measure.
    • "The report starts with an overview of the EU biofuels market and sector and analyses the impact of possible ILUC policy options on the sector and the level of protection of current investments and jobs that would be required. Subsequently, the report analyses the grandfathering clause as currently included in the RED and FQD as well as other possible grandfathering options."
    • "The study concludes that the introduction of an ILUC policy measure is possible while maintaining employment and paying back current investments in biofuel production installations if the 2010-2012 EU biofuel consumption level would be exempted from ILUC policy up to 2020. This means that an ILUC policy option would be targeted towards the future increase in biofuel production until 2020. The ILUC policy would not significantly reduce the total quantity of biofuels used in the EU because the RED and FQD 2020-targets will remain unchanged...." [6]
    • Read the full study here (PDF file)
  • IFPRI report criticised for inaccuracies, 20 December 2011 by Biofuels International: "The German biofuels association UFOP has dismissed claims in a new report carried out by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) into the predicted emissions to be created by indirect land use change policy."
    • "The UFOP says it opposes the adoption of ILUC factors specific for biofuels outlined in the report and says more investment protection needs to be given for existing biodiesel production plants around Europe."
    • "The report, which was published in November 2011 after the European Commission asked for more research to be conducted into ILUC, says proposed European biofuels mandates are 'likely to cause significant indirect land use change emissions'."[7]
  • Indirect land use change in Europe: Considering the policy options, 16 November 2011 by the International Council on Clean Transportation: "The European Commission recently released updated results of modelling by the International Food Policy Research Institute of the likely indirect effects of the EU’s biofuels mandate."
    • "We critically assess this work, concluding that while there are inevitably areas that could be improved with further development it is a robust study and representative of best practice in the field of CGE modelling of iLUC."
    • "Based on a simple spreadsheet model of available biofuel feedstocks and pathways under various policy alternatives, and treating the IFPRI MIRAGE modelling results as the best available evidence, we show that without action on iLUC there are unlikely to be significant (if any) net emissions reductions from European biofuel support policies."
    • "We find that the introduction of iLUC factors, or of policies that otherwise prevented the use of the highest iLUC fuels (biodiesel from unused vegetable oil), would increase the expected carbon savings of the policy by a factor of ten, but note that it might be challenging to meet the current level of aspiration for total energy use with such strong policies."[8]
  • Solving ILUC by Thinking Out of the Box, 15 November 2011 by Ethanol Producer Magazine: "Assuming ILUC [indirect land use change] could occur, policymakers should go for measures that will not cause this leakage effect. They should go for a win-win situation and promote biofuels whilst, at the same time, adopting measures that promote only those biofuels without a high risk of unwanted land use changes."
    • "A consortium of nongovernmental organizations and industry was formed earlier this year to confront policy makers with this more positive, incentive-based approach. The partners, including Shell, Neste Oil, Riverstone Holdings LLC, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Partners for Euro-African Green Energy and ePURE, commissioned Ernst & Young to study a policy approach that incentivizes ILUC-mitigation practices and supports best practices in the production of biofuels and crops for biofuels."
    • "All the policy options being studied by the European Commission have serious drawbacks. None encourage producers to adopt practices that reduce ILUC risks, nor do they improve investor confidence for biofuel development. By assigning a carbon credit to biofuels that prevent or reduce the risk of ILUC, Ernst & Young suggest, financial value can be created to incentivize the adoption of practices that prevent or mitigate ILUC."[9]
  • Doubts cast on biofuels' air quality claims, 15 November 2011 by EurActiv: "When the European Commission began pressing for a dramatic expansion in the use of biofuels in transport and energy several years ago, it was seen as a win-win situation: a way to help farmers, create energy security, cut greenhouse emissions and improve air quality. But even that last claim is no longer taken for granted."
    • "A report prepared earlier this year for Britain’s Environment Department showed mixed benefits on air quality of biodiesel and bioethanol."
    • "Separate research shows that biofuel production – such as land clearing, cultivation, fertiliser use and shipping – may negate any advantages that biofuels for transport use have in cutting smog and greenhouse gases."
    • "Their findings show that palm oil – a leading source for biodiesel – is as carbon intensive as petrol, with a 60% increase in land use emissions resulting from cultivation of tropical forest."
    • "Palm oil cultivation also has other consequences in countries like Indonesia, which ranks 20th in forest loss and 21st in urban pollution levels in the UN’s 2011 Human Development Index of 187 nations."
    • "Health experts are raising alarms about the impact that bio-energy has on air quality, particularly in Northern and Central Europe where the popularity of wood and timber products for home heating is soaring."[10]
  • “Not the right time to call for more idle agricultural land,” warns biofuels association, 14 October 2011 by Renewable Energy Magazine: "ePURE is deeply concerned about the European Commission’s plans to set-aside 7% of EU agricultural land as 'ecological focus areas', in effect marking the reintroduction of the EU's set-aside policy."
    • "Initially intended to curb agricultural surpluses, mandatory set-aside has been abolished in 2009 against the backdrop of soaring soft commodity prices. In the light of a global food crisis in 2008, the EU could no longer afford to keep arable land out of production."
    • "This new set-aside proposal comes in addition to the continuous land idling in Europe, which already leads to a substantial loss of agricultural land in the EU."
    • "In parallel the Commission reflects on possible policy measures to hedge against potential indirect land use change (ILUC) effects of biofuels production. As the ILUC debate boils down to the availability of enough arable land to fulfill our needs now and in the future, the proposal shows a clear lack of consistency between the different EU policies."
    • "The solution to both the ILUC debate and the quest for an environmentally more sustainable agriculture lies in the enlargement of the scope of binding sustainability criteria."[11]
  • The International Scientists and Economists Statement on Biofuels and Land Use, October 2011 by Union of Concerned Scientists: "When land used for food or feed production is turned over to growing biofuel crops, agriculture has to expand elsewhere. This often results in new deforestation and destruction of other ecosystems, particularly in tropical regions in the developing world. The resulting heat-trapping emissions from clearing new land can be significant and may outweigh any emissions savings from the use of biofuels. Numerous scientific studies have warned about the unintended climate consequences of the indirect land use changes associated with increased demand for biofuels and the need to address the issue by changing existing biofuel policies."
  • Brussels slammed for bad science on biofuels, 27 September 2011 by Euractiv: "Several environmental NGOs have written to the European Commission President, José Manuel Barroso, demanding action on five scientific studies that question the clean energy benefits of biofuels, as a row over a land use report by the EU's scientific advisors escalates."
    • "...[T]he letter cites five world-class studies for the EU which, it says, all agree that the Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) effects of biofuels 'could not only negate the expected carbon savings, but even lead to an increase in emissions.'"
    • The most recent, a report by the scientific committee of the European Environment Agency (EEA) slammed the official EU policy that biofuels are 'carbon neutral' as a 'serious accounting error' with 'immense' potential consequences."
    • "The letter's signatories include ActionAid, Birdlife, ClientEarth, European Environmental Bureau, Oxfam, Transport and Environment and Wetlands International."
    • "The science involved in the report is of crucial importance. On Page 8, the EEA report cites the IEA as saying that biofuels could provide 20% of the world’s energy by 2050, and the UNFCCC claiming that bioenergy could supply 800 exajoules of energy per year (EJ/yr)."
    • "But today's entire global cultivatable land for food, feed, fibre and wood only has a chemical energy value of 230 (EJ/yr), just over a quarter of that figure."[13]
    • Download the NGO letter (PDF file)
  • Commission to fudge CO2 effects of biofuel, 22 September 2011 by EuropeanVoice.com: "The European Commission has rejected the advice of its scientific experts and backed away from imposing tough carbon-dioxide emissions standards on specific types of biofuel."
    • "Günther Oettinger, the European commissioner for energy, and Connie Hedegaard, the European commissioner for climate action, are poised to propose instead a cruder environmental standard, that all biofuel sold in the European Union will have to produce carbon-dioxide savings of 50% compared with fossil fuel."
    • "Different types of biofuel have different ILUC effects, which means that their environmental performance varies, sometimes widely."
    • "Only this week, a scientific committee of the European Environment Agency, an EU body charged with providing advice to the EU institutions, warned that to assume that using biomass as an energy source was carbon neutral was 'a serious accounting error'."
    • "But the commissioners have now agreed to postpone action until 2014, the last year of the mandate of the current Commission. Only then will they make their proposals to attach specific CO2 values to each type of biofuel – deferring any impact from new measures until 2016 at the earliest."[14]
  • New map gives public a global view of biofuel development, 8 September 2011 by Center for International Forestry Research: "The Global Biofuel Information Tool (GBIT), developed by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), with support from Profundo, is the first systematic attempt at gathering and consolidating data on biofuels and making this accessible in a user-friendly format."
    • "The GBIT was developed under a project funded by the European Commission exploring bioenergy, sustainability and trade-offs between the two."
    • "The project aims to analyse bioenergy developments and their implications for forests and people’s livelihoods."
    • "Determining the magnitude and location of biofuel investments in forest-rich countries will help to assess how these investments affect forests and people and how they can be made more sustainable."
    • "The GBIT offers data on national biofuel production and consumption obtained and collated from the International Energy Statistics database of the US Energy Information Administration."[15]
  • EBB slams EU thinking on biofuel land use impacts, 5 August 2011 by Argus Media: "Europe's biodiesel producers have commissioned an independent review of a policy document on biodiesel's indirect effects on land use change, which the European Biodiesel Board (EBB) maintains has skewed the European Commission's thinking on the subject to the detriment of the European biodiesel industry."
    • The commission has yet to define its methodology for gauging the possibility that diverting additional land to agriculture to feed biofuels demand could be increasing carbon emissions, an issue commonly referred to by the acronym ILUC. But several reports commissioned by the EU, which were subsequently leaked, have suggested incorporating ILUC into carbon calculation methodologies could have a negative impact on biodiesel made from virgin vegetable oils."
    • "In particular, EBB criticises [an] IFPRI report for underestimating the positive impact of increased oilseeds production in increasing animal feed production, containing flawed calculations on the amount of substitution between vegetable oils — which occurs in the EU market — and failing to include improvements in agricultural productivity among its calculations."
    • "EBB has commissioned Dr Don O'Connor of (S&T)² Consultants and Professor Gernot Klepper of the Kiel Institute for World Economy, to perform a critical review of the IFPRI study. The EBB expects to present its findings in September, when the college of commissioners will consider the findings of the commission's ILUC impact assessment. "[16]
  • First EU sustainability schemes for biofuels get the go-ahead, 19 July 2011 press release by the European Commission: "In order to receive government support or count towards mandatory national renewable energy targets, biofuels used in the EU, whether locally produced or imported, have to comply with sustainability criteria. These criteria aim at preventing the conversion of areas of high biodiversity and high carbon stock for the production of raw materials for biofuels. In practice this means that biofuels made of crops that have been grown on land that used to be rainforest or natural grassland with a unique ecosystem cannot be considered as sustainable. In addition, the greenhouse gas emissions over the whole production chain need to be at least 35% lower compared to fossil fuels. That threshold will increase over time."
    • "Companies can choose whether to demonstrate compliance with these sustainability requirements through national systems or by joining a voluntary scheme which is recognised by the Commission."
    • "After a detailed assessment made by the Commission and various improvements the following schemes were recognised:
      • ISCC (German (government financed) scheme covering all types of biofuels)
      • Bonsucro EU (Roundtable initiative for sugarcane based biofuels, focus on Brazil)
      • RTRS EU RED (Roundtable initiative for soy based biofuels, focus on Argentina and Brazil)
      • RSB EU RED (Roundtable initiative covering all types of biofuels)
      • 2BSvs (French industry scheme covering all types of biofuels)
      • RSBA (Industry scheme for Abengoa covering their supply chain)
      • Greenergy (Industry scheme for Greenergy covering sugar cane ethanol from Brazil)
    • "The Commission is currently discussing with other voluntary schemes how these can also improve their standard in order to meet the sustainability requirements for biofuels."[17]
  • European Commission Funds Global Project to Produce Ethanol, Biodiesel and Bioproducts From Algae, 24 May 2011 by PR Newswire: "Nine partners from seven countries have joined in an innovative project to show that ethanol, biodiesel and bioproducts can be produced from algae on a large scale."
    • "The BIOfuel From Algae Technologies (BIOFAT) project, largely funded by the European Commission's Seventh Framework Program, aims to demonstrate that biofuels made from microalgae can offer energy efficiency, economic viability and environmental sustainability."
    • "BIOFAT seeks to maximize the benefits from algae while minimizing environmental impacts. Along the way, the project will introduce the world to the algorefinery, a facility that can produce high-value co-products in addition to biofuels."
    • "This project will be carried out by a transnational consortium drawn from the academic, industrial and public sectors and include the University of Florence (IT), A4F-AlgaFuel (PT), Ben-Gurion University (IL), Fotosintetica & Microbiologica (IT), Evodos (NL), AlgoSource Technologies (FR), IN SRL (IT) and Hart Energy (BE)."[18]
  • Analysis: Bioethanol may win in crunch time for EU biofuels, 13 May 2011 by Reuters: "After a two-year investigation, the European Commission has decided that the complex issue of 'indirect land use change' (ILUC) can lessen carbon savings from biofuels."
    • "The battle over ILUC has poured doubt on the security of any new investments, but that could be ended this summer when the Commission announces moves to curb the least sustainable."
    • "EU sources involved in the debate say a ranking is starting to emerge, giving the cleanest credentials to advanced bioethanol from farming residues such as straw. Next comes bioethanol from sugar beet and sugar cane, followed by the most efficient bioethanol from wheat."
    • "The Commission's new evidence will also create pressure to speed up the adoption of next-generation biofuels from agricultural residues such as straw, which do not compete with food and therefore do not create ILUC."
    • "But many industry players say Europe's political incentives are not enough to compensate for the risks and added costs of investing in new technology. 'The technology is available.' said Kare Riis Nielsen of Novozymes. 'Now we are facing a political barrier. The current policies are ineffective. A specific blending target or mandate for next-generation biofuels in all petrol is key.'[19]
  • Europe's biofuel dispute splits the industry, 3 May 2011 by Reuters: "After a two-year investigation, the European Commission has decided that the complex issue of "indirect land use change" (ILUC) can lessen carbon savings from biofuels. In July it may announce moves to curb the least sustainable -- possibly by raising an EU-wide sustainability benchmark."
    • "The battle over ILUC has thrown into doubt EU plans to create a $17 billion annual market for biofuels from producers such as France, Germany, Brazil, Malaysia and Indonesia."
    • "'It has sent a lot of signals to investors that the policy environment is uncertain,' Kare Riis Nielsen, head of EU affairs at Danish enzymes producers Novozymes, told Reuters. 'The whole industry is suffering from that.'"
    • "'What's most important now is that we come out of this with crisp, clear signals to the investment community and consumers,' said Nielsen. 'ILUC could create a window of opportunity.'"
    • "The Commission has run 15 studies on different biofuel crops, which on average conclude that over the next decade Europe's biofuels policies might have an indirect impact equal to 4.5 million hectares of land -- an area the size of Denmark."
    • "EU sources say July's announcement by the European Commission will broadly endorse the green credentials of bioethanol but raise questions about some sources of biodiesel."[20]
  • European ethanol, ag sectors unite in criticizing ILUC modeling, 3 May 2011 press release by ePURE in Ethanol Producer Magazine: "At a jointly hosted conference on May 3 in Brussels, the European Renewable Ethanol Association (ePURE) and European farmers body Copa-Cogeca joined forces to criticize European Commission plans to introduce an ILUC factor for biofuels."
    • "At the meeting, organized to examine the commission’s current thinking on indirect land use change (ILUC), both organizations urged the EC to step back from considering introducing unwarranted and punitive measures on the European ethanol and farming sector. In a December 2010 communication, the commission suggested that it may introduce an ILUC factor in regulations which ePURE and Copa-Cogeca would render the European biofuel industry unviable."
    • "The ethanol industry has the strong impression that it is going to be penalized for something it is not responsible for, such as deforestation. Instead, this industry should be rewarded for bringing idle land in Europe back into productivity and for providing vital coproducts for the food sector."[21]
  • Palm oil plantations could be classified as forests, 8 February 2010 by The Ecologist: "European Commission guidance would allow biofuels to be labelled as sustainable even if forests have been destroyed to make way for the palm oil plantations."
    • "According to a leaked document from the European Commission, reclassifying palm plantations as forested land could be justified and allow it to meet sustainability criteria."
    • According to the document, this would mean "'for example, that a change from forest to oil palm plantation would not per se constitute a breach of the criterion.'"
    • "Friends of the Earth said the plans, if accepted, would allow rainforest to be destroyed to make way for palm plantations and the resulting biofuel to still be classified as sustainable."
    • "The EU is due to publish a report on greenhouse gas emissions from biofuel production in March 2010."[25]
  • Internal EU report casts doubts on its biofuel strategy, 18 January 2008, by AFP: "An internal European Commission study, seen by AFP Friday, criticises an EU plan to boost the use of biofuels in transport, concluding that their costs outweigh the benefits."
    • The internal-use "working paper by the Joint Research Centre, the European Commission's in-house scientific body," "looks at whether using biofuels reduces greenhouse gas emissions, improves security of supply and creates jobs and delivers an unenthusiastic opinion on all three counts."
    • "EU taxpayers would have to fork out an extra 33-65 billion euros (48-95 billion dollars) between now and 2020 if the European Commission proposals [to increase biofuels use to 10% of total transportation fuel use] go ahead, according to the study."

Publications

  • Assessing the Land Use Change Consequences of European Biofuel Policies by David Laborde of the International Food Policy Institute (IFPRI) for the Directorate General for Trade of the European Commission, October 2011: This report follows up on the 2010 European Commission report “Global Trade and Environmental Impact Study of the EU Biofuels Mandate”.
    • "This new study contains several important changes compared to the previous report. It uses an updated version of the global computable general equilibrium model (CGE), MIRAGE-Biof, as well as a revised scenario describing the EU mandate based on the National Renewable Energy Action Plans of the 27 member states. In addition, a stronger focus has been placed on specific feedstock Land Use Change (LUC) computation and the uncertainties surrounding these values. Systematic sensitivity analysis is used to measure the potential range of LUC coefficients." [26]
  • Proceedings of the "Workshop on Biofuels and Indirect Land Use Change" by Uwe R. Fritsche, Hans Van Steen, Jan-Erik Petersen, Luisa Marelli, Kjell Andersson, Göran Berndes, Nuša Urbancic, January 2012. "Expecting the release of the European Commission’s impact assessment on 'indirect land use change (ILUC) related to biofuels and bioliquids on greenhouse gas emissions and addressing ways to minimize it', the Coordinators of the ENVI Committee requested the organisation of a workshop on this issue. The workshop consisted of different presentations and an exchange of views with Members and established experts in the area of the biofuels and ILUC. This report summarises the presentation, discussions and conclusions." [27]


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