Biofuels: The final vote!

This Wednesday  ( the 11th of September) the Members of the European Parliament will vote for a new legislative proposal regarding the EU’s biofuel policy. Biofuels have been under a heated debate for years, when finally last year the Commission came with a new proposal to lower the target for the use of Biofuels in the transport sector. The European Parliament is due to give its opinion this week with the final vote on the report which was prepared by the committee on the Environment (ENVI) in the European Parliament. The Foundation Max van der Stoel hopes the MEPs will vote in favour of this report, which would make way for a more coherent EU policy on Biofuels.

On September 4th different stakeholders (e.g. NGO’s and the Biofuels industry) had the opportunity to make their side of the story clear during  “ the big biofuels debate” at the European Parliament which was organised by two MEPs, rapporteur of the ENVI Committee, Corinne Lepage (ALDE) and Ismail Ertug (S&D).

Before a panel discussion with different stakeholders took place, more information about the external effects of biofuel policy, especially social effects, were showed by a representative from Indonesia, Nur Hidayati of WALHI, Indonesia’s Friends of the Earth. She said that the incentives raised by the current biofuel policy, in which 10% of the transport sector should run on renewable sources in 2020, is harming local communities in Indonesia. The demand for palm oil, for biofuel energy, has gone up, with the result of rainforests being cut and more social conflicts about land in Indonesia. She said to be very concerned about the incoherent policy of the European Union regarding biofuels. On the one hand the EU sends aid to protect the rainforests and local communities and on the other hand it stimulates to cut rainforest and take land from local communities for the biofuel industry.  Her story showed many similarities to our own impact study on the impact of the EU’s biofuels policy in Tanzania.

In the panel discussion that followed the representative of Action Aid, Laura Sullivan, made clear what the problems of current biofuel policy are. First she stated that the current use of biofuels isn’t environmentally sustainable. There are still a lot of biofuels that have a high CO2-emission and are thus not good for the environment. Second, biofuels aren’t economically sustainable, because still a lot of subsidies are required to produce this sort of energy, making biofuel energy an expensive source of energy. Third, she stated that the biofuel policy isn’t socially sustainable. Land that is needed to produce biofuels, often is land that used to be a source of food security for local communities in developing countries. Because of the change of land-use, producing food crops for biofuels instead of for food, the food prices go up, making it even more difficult for communities in developing countries to provide for themselves. Conclusion, the current biofuel policy doesn’t help European consumers, African consumers or the environment.

The ENVI committee in the European Parliament reacted to the European Commission’s proposal of last year in a report in which they propose a maximum of 5,5% use of food-based biofuels in the transport sector. In the report it is also proposed that a requirement of mandatory reporting of Indirect Land-Use Change (ILUC) Factors should be established in the fuel quality directive. The ENVI report has been quite well received by most NGOs, and hopefully the report will be voted on in favour this week in Strasbourg! MEP Kriton Arsenis stated that the S&D group will support the report proposed by the ENVI Committee. With the support of the S&D group the upcoming vote looks promising but it all depends on the  willingness of the EPP and the ALDE group to take into account the principle of Policy Coherence for Development.



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