European Parliament vote shows need to abolish damaging biofuels use for good

Brussels, 28 April 2015 - Today MEPs voted to introduce a seven percent cap on food-based biofuels and to include carbon emissions from land use change in environmental assessments. Oxfam, together with allied NGOs, also released a paper detailing recommendations on how the EU can sustainably incorporate bioenergy into its 2030 climate and energy policies.

Marc-Olivier Herman, Oxfam’s EU biofuels expert, says:
“The European Parliament’s decision to lessen the damage caused by Europe’s biofuels policy to both poor communities and the environment is welcome, but does not go far enough. Europe must now ban fuels competing with food production completely.”

“This reform has been undermined for five years by powerful vested interests within the biofuels industry, who have worked ceaselessly to weaken it by putting their own profits above the environment and people’s ability to feed themselves.”

“Today’s vote carries important lessons for the Junker Commission. The EU’s climate and energy policy after 2020 must not allow binding targets for transport. New policies on the use of all bioenergy that truly benefits people and planet are needed. This should include concrete measures to cap bioenergy use at sustainable levels, and strong legislation protecting the rights of local communities to access their own land.”

Notes to editors: 

Oxfam, together with other organizations, today released a paper entitled ‘Pitfalls and Potentials: The role of bioenergy in the EU climate and energy policy post 2020’. The recommendations include introducing a cap to limit the use of bioenergy, ensuring it is used efficiently, ensuring carbon emissions are counted correctly and including binding sustainability criteria in 2030 energy policies.

What’s in the final deal?

  • A 7% cap on biofuels from agricultural crops (in comparison to 8.6% business as usual scenario) – with an option for Member states to go lower.
  • Indirect emissions will be reported on every year by the European Commission and by fuel suppliers by taking into account ‘ILUC factors’. This will increase the transparency of the impacts of this policy for European citizens.
  • A 0.5% non-binding target for so-called ‘advanced biofuels’ to be confirmed by Member States while giving “due regard” to safeguards to ensure these biofuels are sustainable. As an extra incentive these so-called second generation biofuels will be double counted towards the 10% target.

What’s missing in the final deal?

  • A tighter cap on all biofuels competing with food production for land and other precious resources. The European Commission had set the cap at 5%. The European Parliament had made the cap water tight by prohibiting subsidies above the cap and applying it to all biofuels made from feedstocks grown on land.
  • True carbon accounting to avoid subsidizing biofuels that are more polluting than fossil fuels. In addition to the reporting of emissions from indirect land use change, the European Parliament had mandated the accounting of these emissions to determine the greenhouse gas savings of biofuels.
  • Adequate social and environmental sustainability criteria for all types of biofuels. The European Parliament had included the need to secure the free prior and informed consent of communities affected by land deals to produce conventional biofuels and the respect of the principles of cascading use and waste hierarchy to produce advanced biofuels.

For background information and a timeline of the EU biofuels reform please view our media reaction to the Environment Committee’s vote on the legislation on 14 April.

Contact information: 

Àngela Corbalán on angela.corbalan@oxfaminternational.org or + 32 (0) 473 56 22 60

For updates, please follow @Oxfam or @OxfamEU.