EU ministers’ biofuel proposal will continue to burn food for fuel

Published: 18th December 2017

European energy ministers meeting in Brussels today agreed European drivers should be obliged to burn massive quantities of food crops in their fuel tanks until 2030. Anti-poverty organisation Oxfam and green group Transport & Environment (T&E) deplored this policy that would only benefit the biofuels industry and contribute to hunger and environmental damage.

Oxfam’s EU economic justice policy lead, Marc-Olivier Herman, said:

“European governments are giving free rein to a policy that only benefits biofuel corporations and that rides roughshod over people’s human rights and livelihoods. Despite burning food for fuel meaning taking it from the poorest and most vulnerable to food price shocks, the EU seems set on driving ahead with their destructive policy.

“The European Parliament should lead the way when it votes on this policy in January by speaking out against binding biofuels targets for transport and against food-based biofuels so that people no longer see their livelihoods and land being burned up for fuel.”

T&E’s clean fuels manager, Laura Buffet, said:

“EU governments have not learned from past mistakes on biofuels. Ignoring all the scientific evidence that shows most crop biofuels in Europe increase emissions and drive deforestation, EU energy ministers have decided to keep promoting these harmful biofuels for another decade.”

“We urge Members of the European Parliament to reject any new crop biofuels target in transport and phase out support for food-based biofuels in 2030. EU policy should focus on supporting truly sustainable alternatives for transport such as renewable electricity and sustainable advanced waste-based fuels. ”

Notes to editors

  • Energy ministers meeting at the Energy Council were discussing proposals on the reform of the European Union Renewable Energy Directive for the period 2021-2030. This directive is part of a legislative package that ought to set the EU on track to meet its commitments under the Paris climate agreement and the 2030 sustainable development goals (SDG). The proposal adopted by EU energy ministers today would do neither.
  • The ministers agreed on reintroducing a binding target for renewable energy in the transport sector requiring EU member states to reach 14% by 2030 through mandates imposed on fuel suppliers. Such a target would mostly be reached by using food- and feed-based biofuels.
  • The Estonian presidency proposal  agreed by European energy ministers today also included the following provisions in relation to biofuels: removal of  tighter limits on the use of food and feed crops proposed by the Commission (3,8% in 2030 instead of 7% currently); and changes to the definition of food and feed crops that would exempt European grown crops like rapeseed from this limit. This will also mean more use of food crops for biofuels. Member states have the option to set a lower limit if they want to.
  • The ministers agreed on supporting further the use of renewable electricity in  transport, by adopting a multiplier of 5 for renewable electricity used in road vehicles.
  • The European Parliament will vote on its version of the proposed Renewable Energy Directive in plenary in Strasbourg on 16 or 17 January 2018.
  • In October, the European Parliament’s Environment Committee improved the Commission’s reform proposal by suggesting to phase out the use of biofuels made from food crops by 2030.  T&E welcomed the support for ending the use of high-emitting biodiesel from palm oil, rapeseed and soy in European cars and Oxfam said more must be done to end the EU's bioenergy policy's destructive effects on the climate and on people worldwide.
  • In November, the industry committee of the European Parliament voted to reinstate a ‘renewable’ energy target for transport in 2030. Oxfam and T&E said such a target would continue subsidising the use of high-emitting, food-based biofuels.
  • Read a briefing by an NGO coalition, including Oxfam and T&E, summarising what is at stake with the EU’s bioenergy reform: “Bioenergy laid bare: fuelling climate change, fuelling hunger”.
  • Oxfam’s report ‘Burning land, burning the climate – The biofuel industry capture of EU bioenergy policy’ sheds light on the trail of destruction left across the globe by the current EU biofuel policy. The report also documents the outsized influencing ‘fire power’ of the EU biofuel industry which has benefited from the policy.

Contact information

Florian Oel | Oxfam | | office +32 2 234 11 15 | mobile +32 473 56 22 60

For updates, please follow @Oxfam and @OxfamEU

Laura Buffet | Transport & Environment | | mobile +32 490 64 59 55