Oxfam reaction to EU biofuels debate by Energy Ministers

Published: 12th December 2013

Commenting on the failure of EU Energy Ministers to reach agreement on EU biofuel policy today, Marc Olivier Herman, Oxfam’s biofuels expert said:

“Today’s failure to reach a decision on EU biofuels policy must mark the end of countries complacent attitudes. All member states, especially influential countries such as Germany, France the UK, must take a firm stance against using food for fuel and stand up in favor of people and the planet.”

“Denmark, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium and other countries, who have argued against raising the biofuels cap to 7 percent of the renewable transport fuel target, must continue to oppose Member States and the biofuel industries attempts to block meaningful reform of European biofuels policy.”

“An increase of food-based biofuels from the recommended European Commission level of 5 percent to 7 percent is the equivalent of enough food to feed 69 million people every year."

Notes to Editors

In October 2012, the European Commission proposed amending the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive by introducing a 5% limit for counting food crop-based biofuels towards the 10% target for renewable energy in transport fuels by 2020, improving sustainability criteria and promoting the use of advanced biofuels. In September, the European Parliament voted for a 6% cap. A final deal between the European Parliament and EU Member States must be struck in the coming months. With the lack of agreement by EU governments today, the decision-making process gets delayed. Another opportunity to amend the EU’s current biofuels policy will wait until after the European Parliament elections in May and the Italian EU Presidency which will kick off in July.

What was todays failed proposal?

  • Food-based biofuels capped at 7% of the 10% targets set for renewable transport fuels. This was complimented by a series of loopholes, such as the usage of statistical transfers between EU member states. According to the EC, if the policy remains unchanged, biofuels made from food crops will account for close to 9% of all energy used in transport in the EU in 2020
  • The EU advanced biofuels policy significantly down played, with sub-targets becoming voluntary.
  • A lowering of ambition of the 2020 EU climate goals, as advanced biofuels were to be double counted towards the overall 20% renewable energy targets.
  • Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) emissions not accounted for and reporting obligations significantly watered down. Reporting no longer done by member states, but by the Commission using a very wide range of estimated ILUC emissions.
  • The proposal failed to meet the primary objectives of the review and ignores the advice Commission to cap food-based biofuels at 5%. It considerably avoided dealing with the land pressure, disruption of food markets, environmental damage and climate impacts directly and indirectly posed by biofuels.  

What are Oxfam’s demands?

Oxfam believes the EU Member States, European Commission and European Parliament should revise the EU Renewable Energy Directive of 2009 to:

  • Remove the 10 per cent 2020 binding target for renewable energy in transport
  • Account for the entirety of the greenhouse gas emissions of biofuels by including emissions caused by indirect land use change in greenhouse gas accounting; and
  • Introduce binding social sustainability criteria for biofuel production, covering food security, access to land and water, human rights and the principle of free, prior and informed consent for all communities affected by land deals.

The EU‘s post-2020 Renewable Energy Strategy should be informed by the negative impacts of the current biofuels policy on food security and access to land in developing countries. While ambitious overall renewable energy targets are an important part of promoting sustainable renewable energy, no new target should be set for the transport sector

Contact information

Angela Corbalan on + 32 (0) 473 56 22 60 or angela.corbalan@oxfaminternational.org
Twitter: @angelacorbalan

Infographic: EU biofuels