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The ‘year of delivery’ comes to an end

By Géraldine Kutas posted Dec 22, 2016
This is our last post of the year. 2016 will definitely go down in history as an eventful year, both on the political and policy levels. The Commission had promised us a ‘year of delivery’, and it did deliver indeed.

Dear readers,

This is our last post of the year. 2016 will definitely go down in history as an eventful year, both on the political and policy levels. I hope you will all get to disconnect from work, rest, and enjoy the Winter Holidays with families and friends.

The Commission had promised us a ‘year of delivery’, and it did deliver indeed. We hadn’t seen such an amount of proposals in years – this is likely to keep us busy through 2017 and beyond. It’s not all perfect, but we know what we have to work with now.

We often hear in Brussels that the Juncker Commission is very ‘political’. But the downside of being ‘political’ is that you can be tempted to shut an eye on the facts and give in to pure political considerations instead, regardless of the actual consequences. This is precisely what happened with biofuels in the proposed legislation on renewable energy, and the decision to significantly reduce the use of all first generation biofuels, regardless of their GHG emission performance.

So, in 2017 our job is going to be to try and put back some nuance into the proposed legislation for 2030. In particular, we are going to try and convince policymakers that a black and white approach to conventional biofuels, while easier to understand, will not solve the problem of transport emissions and might actually make it worse. The problem is that many policymakers are still ‘traumatized’ by the never-ending discussions around indirect land-use change and do not want to reopen the debate. NGOs on the other hand are trying to convince everyone that only e-mobility can reduce emissions in transport, and that biofuels consist in taking people’s food and running your car with it.

Reality is a bit different. Yes, there are some conventional biofuels whose sustainability is uncertain, but not all of them. You just need to have a look at the latest studies to see it (hint: one of these, known as ‘GLOBIOM’ was commissioned by… the Commission). And guess what: sugarcane ethanol is one of the most sustainable biofuels even when ILUC is considered. The problem is that the Commission felt under so much pressure from public opinion that it did not fight it and adopted instead this simplistic narrative. Now we have to go and explain to people that the most common misconceptions on biofuels are not always true, especially when it comes to sugarcane ethanol, and why the proposed policies have a big chance of backfiring.

Despite the task at hand, we are really looking forward to 2017. We will be hearing more about Mercosur too, with a first civil society meeting scheduled for mid-January and another round of negotiations in March. We’re hopeful that progress can be made on the deal over the next few months and will follow closely the debate.

Thanks again for reading us and have a nice holiday!

Many questions and not enough answers

By Géraldine Kutas posted Dec 07, 2016
Are we not losing sight of the main objective: reduce GHG emissions from transport? My feeling after having read and digested the new proposal on the Renewable Energy Directive is that by 2030 there will probably not be a massive change in how much we emit from our transportation activities.

Are we not losing sight of the main objective: reduce GHG emissions from transport?

My feeling after having read and digested the new proposal on the Renewable Energy Directive is that by 2030 there will probably not be a massive change in how much we emit from our transportation activities.

These are my doubts:

Trajectory is not realistic – I doubt that the trajectory proposed for the phase out of conventional biofuels will be actually feasible. Don’t take me wrong, I am very much in favour of advanced biofuels – some of UNICA’s members produce them – and I think it is good to have a specific sub-target for fuel suppliers. But, my question is: will advanced biofuels be able to replace the conventional biofuels at the rhythm foreseen by the Commission? I don’t think so! Advanced biofuels production often relies on conventional biofuels existing investment, infrastructures, biomass. This basis will not be there, after years of legislative instability and yet another change proposed last week, the situation is already looking gloomy. As a biofuel producer I would probably not dare to invest again in the sector under such premises.

Risk of more fossil fuels – In fact, I see the risk of more use of fossil fuels when conventional biofuels cannot be replaced with advanced!!! Certainly, it will not be electricity to come to the rescue. Also here, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think electric vehicles are in competition with biofuels. At least not in the foreseeable future! The Commission did not even go for a big push for electrification of transport as its recent narrative suggested. As I see it, we will end up, in perhaps other 20 years, with hybrid cars which can run with electricity and biofuels. Nor will come to the rescue other alternative fuels. Member States showed already during the negotiations on the Alternative Fuels infrastructure deployment directive, that they do not want to be told how to promote alternative fuels. So, no mandatory targets and national plans were to be submitted to the Commission on 18 November this year. We will have to wait until the end of the year to see how much countries are committed on this front.

GHG emission reduction target – I am very much in favour of the blending mandate. I think it is the right approach which keeps the focus on the main goal of reducing emission. But what about leaving fuel suppliers free to simply choose the less emitting fuels to meet their 6.8% target? This would have finally recognised and given a role to bioethanol, which is conventional but actually reduces GHG emissions and has a low ILUC impact, as assessed by the Commission itself.  I think this would have been feasible from a scientific perspective, but unfortunately not so much on a political one, based on public misconceptions (see my blog on ‘Why science matters’ here).

Now, my question remains: how are we going to reduce emissions from transport in the next decade?

I look forward to the beginning of negotiations in the institutions and I will be happy to bring the positive example of Brazil, where sugarcane ethanol, one of the best performing conventional biofuels, is actually reducing transport emissions, improving the agricultural sector and creating the conditions for the next generation of biofuels to develop and become commercially viable.

Brazilian Sugarcane Biofuel Producers Applaud Increased EPA Support for Advanced Renewable Fuels

By Elizabeth Farina posted Nov 23, 2016
The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (known by the acronym “UNICA”) today commented on the final 2017 renewable fuel standards from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The association’s statement should be attributed to UNICA’s President, Elizabeth Farina.

The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (known by the acronym “UNICA”) today commented on the final 2017 renewable fuel standards from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The association’s statement should be attributed to UNICA’s President, Elizabeth Farina.

“Brazil’s sugarcane ethanol producers applaud EPA for its continued leadership and support of advanced renewable fuels. By setting a higher final 2017 RFS volume requirement for advanced biofuels than originally proposed in May, EPA makes a powerful statement on the economic and climate benefits of renewable fuels.”
 
“Increasing requirements for advanced biofuels help ensure continued American access to sugarcane ethanol, one of the cleanest and most commercially ready advanced biofuels available today. This signal of support will also encourage innovations and increase production of second-generation biofuels, which hold incredible potential to increase per-acre ethanol productivity and unlock vast new cellulosic feedstocks.”
 
“We are proud of the modest but important role Brazil plays supplying the United States with clean, low-carbon renewable fuel.  Over the past four years, nearly 1.2 billion gallons of sugarcane ethanol imported from Brazil flowed into American vehicles.  During this time, sugarcane ethanol comprised only two percent of all renewable fuels consumed by Americans, but provided one-tenth of the entire U.S. advanced biofuel supply.”
 
“With the right market conditions, Brazil has the capacity to supply the U.S. with significantly greater quantities of advanced biofuel than the 200 million gallons assumed by EPA’s 2017 rule. Together, America and Brazil have built a global biofuels market, and we look forward to continuing to ensure the road to sustainable transportation is fueled by renewable biofuels.”
 
# # #
 
The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association is the leading trade association for the sugarcane industry in Brazil, representing nearly 60 percent of the country’s sugarcane production and processing.  More information on sugarcane ethanol and its role as an advanced biofuel is available at www.sugarcane.org/rfs.

Biofuels Play Central Role in Brazil’s Climate Goals

By Leticia Phillips posted Nov 22, 2016
The Paris Agreement on Climate Change entered into force in September, starting a coordinated effort by the world’s governments to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and limit climate change impacts. It’s far from the end, though. Entering into force starts the hard work—meeting each nation’s decarbonization targets. Every country’s intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) will reduce emissions and expand economic opportunities for clean energy. More than any other nation, Brazil’s INDC relies on biofuels to meet these goals.

This article originally ran at Ethanol Producer Magazine.

The Paris Agreement on Climate Change entered into force in September, starting a coordinated effort by the world’s governments to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and limit climate change impacts. It’s far from the end, though. Entering into force starts the hard work—meeting each nation’s decarbonization targets. Every country’s intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) will reduce emissions and expand economic opportunities for clean energy. More than any other nation, Brazil’s INDC relies on biofuels to meet these goals.

Brazil’s INDC targets 37 percent lower emissions by 2025 compared to 2005, with further reductions by 2030. This assumes biofuels supply approximately 18 percent of the country’s energy mix by 2030 through greater sugarcane ethanol production, expanded second-generation biofuels and additional biodiesel for transportation.

Biofuels can meet this challenge. Ethanol and bioenergy produced from sugarcane already constitute 15.7 percent of Brazil’s energy mix, replacing more than 40 percent of gasoline and avoiding 600 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions since the beginning of the ethanol program in the 1970s. Just this past harvest, Brazil produced 7 billion gallons of advanced ethanol and 15 million megawatt-hours of bioelectricity from cogeneration.

While Brazil’s INDC and its related biofuel goals are ambitious, experience shows they are also realistic. Ultimate success relies on three fundamental pillars: predictable policy, sustainable production and technological innovation.

 First, government policy must be clear and stable. Well-established rules of the road fostered Brazil biofuels with the first wave of ethanol’s growth government driven from the mid-1970s to the 1980s. The second wave of growth, starting in 2003, resulted from the introduction of flex-fuel vehicles. In the past few years, however, regulatory uncertainty has reduced investments and inhibited technological development. The lack of predictable policy has its cost and instead of having 10 to 30 new mills built per year, we see mills shutting their doors.  

Brazil should maintain a regulatory framework, incorporating the positive externalities of renewable fuel into prices via consumption mandates or tax differentials favoring biofuel over gasoline. 

Second, we must ensure sugarcane production continues to expand sustainably. Brazil’s Agro-Ecological Zoning policy prevents sugarcane expansion in the most sensitive biomes and in native vegetation, while authorizing expansion into 64.7 million hectares of suitable land. That’s about 7.5 percent of Brazil’s territory, compared to the one percent of land currently used for sugarcane production. Sustainability extends to paying sugarcane growers fair prices for their product. Brazil’s current approach is very effective, with the Council of Sugarcane Industry and Growers creating clear rules for cane prices and minimizing potential conflicts. 

While there’s no sustainability silver bullet, Brazil’s current policies are a good start and must be maintained. In addition, we should consider innovative models like self-regulatory commitments and third-party certifications. 

Third, we must enhance research and development to unlock next-generation biofuels and increase ethanol’s competitiveness. Second-generation ethanol is a reality in Brazil. Raizen is producing ethanol from cane bagasse in Sao Paulo and Granbio is producing ethanol from bagasse and straw in Alagoas. The Center for Sugarcane Technology has demonstrated we can quadruple ethanol’s productivity through innovation in the near future. Optimizing production, advancing genetic enhancements and expanding agronomy to increase feedstocks, on top of industrial re-engineering of our first-generation production to second-generation ethanol, can raise production from 1,850 gallons per hectare to 6,500 gallons per hectare.

From the beginning of Brazil’s ethanol program, technological innovations multiplied ethanol production by 20-fold, doubled cane yields and cut prices in half. We believe current innovations will create similar results in the next few decades, if research and development continue on track.

 Reducing power sector emissions is an important start to slowing climate change, but to truly decarbonize, we must tackle transportation emissions. Earlier this year, U.S. transportation emissions passed power sector emissions for the first time since 1979 as new clean energy came online, and this trend will likely play out elsewhere as countries decarbonize. Biofuels are a proven solution to replace fossil-based transportation fuel. Together, America and Brazil have built a global biofuels market, showing how stable policy can create economic growth and environmental benefits. 

Biofuels Play Central Role in Brazil’s Climate Goals

By Leticia Phillips posted Nov 14, 2016
The Paris Agreement on Climate Change entered into force in September, starting a coordinated effort by the world’s governments to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and limit climate change impacts. It’s far from the end, though. Entering into force starts the hard work—meeting each nation’s decarbonization targets. Every country’s intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) will reduce emissions and expand economic opportunities for clean energy. More than any other nation, Brazil’s INDC relies on biofuels to meet these goals.

This article originally ran at Ethanol Producer Magazine.

The Paris Agreement on Climate Change entered into force in September, starting a coordinated effort by the world’s governments to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and limit climate change impacts. It’s far from the end, though. Entering into force starts the hard work—meeting each nation’s decarbonization targets. Every country’s intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) will reduce emissions and expand economic opportunities for clean energy. More than any other nation, Brazil’s INDC relies on biofuels to meet these goals.

Brazil’s INDC targets 37 percent lower emissions by 2025 compared to 2005, with further reductions by 2030. This assumes biofuels supply approximately 18 percent of the country’s energy mix by 2030 through greater sugarcane ethanol production, expanded second-generation biofuels and additional biodiesel for transportation.

Biofuels can meet this challenge. Ethanol and bioenergy produced from sugarcane already constitute 15.7 percent of Brazil’s energy mix, replacing more than 40 percent of gasoline and avoiding 600 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions since the beginning of the ethanol program in the 1970s. Just this past harvest, Brazil produced 7 billion gallons of advanced ethanol and 15 million megawatt-hours of bioelectricity from cogeneration.

While Brazil’s INDC and its related biofuel goals are ambitious, experience shows they are also realistic. Ultimate success relies on three fundamental pillars: predictable policy, sustainable production and technological innovation.

 First, government policy must be clear and stable. Well-established rules of the road fostered Brazil biofuels with the first wave of ethanol’s growth government driven from the mid-1970s to the 1980s. The second wave of growth, starting in 2003, resulted from the introduction of flex-fuel vehicles. In the past few years, however, regulatory uncertainty has reduced investments and inhibited technological development. The lack of predictable policy has its cost and instead of having 10 to 30 new mills built per year, we see mills shutting their doors.  

Brazil should maintain a regulatory framework, incorporating the positive externalities of renewable fuel into prices via consumption mandates or tax differentials favoring biofuel over gasoline. 

Second, we must ensure sugarcane production continues to expand sustainably. Brazil’s Agro-Ecological Zoning policy prevents sugarcane expansion in the most sensitive biomes and in native vegetation, while authorizing expansion into 64.7 million hectares of suitable land. That’s about 7.5 percent of Brazil’s territory, compared to the one percent of land currently used for sugarcane production. Sustainability extends to paying sugarcane growers fair prices for their product. Brazil’s current approach is very effective, with the Council of Sugarcane Industry and Growers creating clear rules for cane prices and minimizing potential conflicts. 

While there’s no sustainability silver bullet, Brazil’s current policies are a good start and must be maintained. In addition, we should consider innovative models like self-regulatory commitments and third-party certifications. 

Third, we must enhance research and development to unlock next-generation biofuels and increase ethanol’s competitiveness. Second-generation ethanol is a reality in Brazil. Raizen is producing ethanol from cane bagasse in Sao Paulo and Granbio is producing ethanol from bagasse and straw in Alagoas. The Center for Sugarcane Technology has demonstrated we can quadruple ethanol’s productivity through innovation in the near future. Optimizing production, advancing genetic enhancements and expanding agronomy to increase feedstocks, on top of industrial re-engineering of our first-generation production to second-generation ethanol, can raise production from 1,850 gallons per hectare to 6,500 gallons per hectare.

From the beginning of Brazil’s ethanol program, technological innovations multiplied ethanol production by 20-fold, doubled cane yields and cut prices in half. We believe current innovations will create similar results in the next few decades, if research and development continue on track.

 Reducing power sector emissions is an important start to slowing climate change, but to truly decarbonize, we must tackle transportation emissions. Earlier this year, U.S. transportation emissions passed power sector emissions for the first time since 1979 as new clean energy came online, and this trend will likely play out elsewhere as countries decarbonize. Biofuels are a proven solution to replace fossil-based transportation fuel. Together, America and Brazil have built a global biofuels market, showing how stable policy can create economic growth and environmental benefits. 

Why science matters

By Géraldine Kutas posted Oct 24, 2016
In its Strategy to decarbonize the transport sector, the Commission made the decision to focus on advanced biofuels only and phase out all conventional biofuels by 2030. If like us you like to think you are a logical person, right now, you’re thinking ‘why’?

Like most people with an interest in European energy issues, we are impatiently waiting for the release of the European Commission’s ‘Winter Package’. In this package, the Commission will amongst other things present its much awaited and certainly controversial new plan for renewable energy sources for 2030.

Biofuels policy has been quite sensitive in the EU as you know. Earlier this year, the Commission released what we know as the ‘Globiom study’, a report which looked at the GHG emissions of various biofuels taking into account Indirect Land Use Change. The purpose of this study was to put a definitive end to speculations around the ILUC impact of conventional biofuels (food crop based) and determine which ones actually reduce emissions and which ones do not.

The results could not have been any simpler: compared to fossil fuels, ethanol reduces, on average, emissions by one third (33%), much more than other conventional biofuels. Guess which ethanol in particular emits even less? No surprise for us: sugarcane ethanol! The same study, based on the very conservative default values of the Commission, found that sugarcane ethanol reduces emissions by 56%. As for advanced biofuels (waste-based) their emissions are close to zero. The problem is they’re not commercially viable yet.

Now think of yourself as a policymaker for a second, one whose job it is to find a way to reduce emissions in the transport sector, preferably at the lowest possible cost for society. You have these facts in your hands. Logic dictates that you put together a policy framework which encourages the use of those biofuels which actually reduce emissions, right?

Well, it seems it’s not always the case. In its Strategy to decarbonize the transport sector, published right before the summer, the Commission made the decision to focus on advanced biofuels only and phase out all conventional biofuels by 2030, regardless of their emission performance. To put it simply, the Commission has decided that it will phase out the only type of biofuel that can actually reduce emissions today because it’s clean and affordable enough to do so.

If like us you like to think you are a logical person, right now, you’re thinking ‘why’? Why would the Commission not differentiate between two clearly different biofuels even though their emission performance is so different? Why would the Commission go as far as to ignore the findings of a study it paid for itself? And why do this while knowing that the EU is lagging behind its transport emissions target?

Believe it or not, the answer is… public opinion. The Commission explicitly admitted that its decision was based on the public’s feelings towards conventional biofuels (the fuel vs. food myth which has been debunked, including by the European Commission itself, a number of times), despite what the scientific data showed. It even went as far as discrediting the calculations of the study it had paid for itself.

According to the Commission, the public is worried that the production of all conventional biofuels uses land which would otherwise be used to grow food. The truth is that in countries like Brazil, food production actually increased as a result of the push to produce more ethanol. In a recent statement, the European Farmers’ Association even recognizes that the production of biofuels has even helped stabilize the food market and made it more resilient to price shocks.[1]

By ignoring these facts, the Commission is doing what too many politicians are doing today – giving in to people’s fears while ignoring the consequences of its decisions. With a little bit of courage and common sense, it might actually save the jobs of thousands of people who work to produce sustainable biofuels used on the European market, and reduce GHG emissions. Isn’t that the point in the end?



[1] http://www.copa-cogeca.be/Download.ashx?ID=1573563&fmt=pdf

Scratching the surface of the biofuel sustainability debate 

By Géraldine Kutas posted Sep 09, 2016
The publication of the Communication on low emission mobility and the announcement of the upcoming new Renewable Energy Directive put biofuels, once again, in the front stage. Scientific evidences tell us: there are sustainable conventional biofuels even when you scratch the surface!

The publication of the Communication on low emission mobility by the European Commission in late July and the announcement of the upcoming new Renewable Energy Directive put biofuels, once again, in the front stage.

And this inevitably made it irresistible for stakeholders to push forward as many reports, blogs and opinions as possible to convey their arguments with the Commission. Many of these publications have a common point: to criticize the whole conventional biofuels world. This is not the first time I express my regrets and frustration with this black and white approach. As I have repeated over and over, not all biofuels are created equal and each of them should be evaluated based on its true environmental impact.

The fact is that none of the recent publications addressed founded criticism to sugarcane ethanol, which despite being a conventional biofuels has among the highest emissions saving performances. Even Laszlo Varro, chief economist of the International Energy Agency (IEA), who recently strongly criticized biofuels alleging “ugly questions about sustainability” said that “if I had to write a list with the world’s best designed schemes for investment in renewables, countries such as Mexico and Brazil would be there”. With 45% of energy coming from renewables, Brazil has one of the world’s cleanest energy mix and sugarcane is the #1 source of renewable energy. Sugarcane is mainly used to produce ethanol that reduces emission by 90% on average, in addition to bioelectricity. For me, the words of Mr. Varro are a clear proof that some conventional biofuels are better than others!

Now, the question is: how is the Commission going to distinguish among conventional biofuels on the basis of their individual environmental performances? This is a difficult political decision to make. However, in practice, this is what the scientific evidences tell us: there are sustainable conventional biofuels even when you scratch the surface!

The European communication on low-emission mobility: a missed opportunity?

By Géraldine Kutas posted Jul 20, 2016
Today the European Commission published a Communication on low-emission mobility. While we acknowledges the Commission’s clear support signal towards advanced biofuels we are also deeply concerned about the gradual phase out of first-generation biofuels.

Today the European Commission published a Communication on low-emission mobility which lays down its vision and strategy for transport over the next few decades. While we acknowledges the Commission’s clear support signal towards advanced biofuels – as they certainly represent one way forward to decarbonize transport – we are also deeply concerned about the gradual phase out of first-generation biofuels.  As the Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) Directive last year, this approach discriminates against all first-generation biofuels regardless of their actual GHG emission reductions. Such a U-turn only creates legislative instability and confusion for investors and does not help the EU in achieving its ambitious climate targets.

By refusing to take into consideration the concrete positive impacts of ethanol produced from sugarcane, the proposal effectively turns a blind eye to one of the cleanest alternatives on the market today.

Unlike other first-generation biofuels, sugarcane ethanol is one of the best performers in terms of GHG emissions reduction, even when indirect land-use change is considered. Moreover, Brazilian sugarcane ethanol does not face the alleged food vs. energy dilemma since, according to recent studies, including by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI, 2016), it has a negligible impact on food prices. Other countries are also looking at reducing their emissions from transports. Brazil, for instance, has replaced 45% of its gasoline consumption with sugarcane ethanol and the United States classified this specific biofuel as an advanced alternative.

By progressively eliminating first-generation biofuels, the Commission does not solve the problem of emissions from the 94% of energy in transport which will still be coming from liquid fuels in 2030.

We hope that the assessment of the impact of a gradual phasing-out of first-generation biofuels takes into account the investment already made by the industry. The development of advanced biofuels would depend on a healthy conventional biofuel industry, which is going to face great instability and economic losses in the years to come due to the regulatory shift generated by the ILUC Directive first and this strategy now.

The discriminatory approach towards first generation biofuels makes this Communication on low-emission mobility a missed opportunity.

Now, we look forward to the opportunity to maintain a fruitful and constructive dialogue with the Commission in the upcoming phase towards the new Renewable Directive and a new policy for sustainable bioenergy and biofuels for the period post-2020.

Brazilian Sugarcane Biofuel Producers Urge Increased EPA Support for Advanced Renewable Fuels

By Elizabeth Farina posted Jul 11, 2016
The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (known by the acronym “UNICA”) today commented on proposed 2017 renewable fuel standards by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The association also issued the following statement, which should be attributed to UNICA’s President, Elizabeth Farina.

The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (known by the acronym “UNICA”) today commented on proposed 2017 renewable fuel standards by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The association also issued the following statement, which should be attributed to UNICA’s President, Elizabeth Farina.

“Brazilian sugarcane producers are proud of the modest but important role they play supplying the United States with clean, low-carbon renewable fuel.  Over the past four years, nearly 1.2 billion gallons of sugarcane ethanol imported from Brazil flowed into American vehicles.  During this time, sugarcane ethanol comprised only 2% of all renewable fuels consumed by Americans, but has provided one-tenth of the entire U.S. advanced biofuel supply.”

“Our official comments make clear that with the right market conditions, Brazil has the capacity to supply the U.S. with significantly greater quantities of advanced biofuel than the 200 million gallons assumed by EPA’s 2017 proposal.”

“EPA has the ability to stimulate the market for advanced biofuel.  We urge the Agency to keep as close to the statutory volume requirements as possible and take measures to encourage the production and import of low-carbon renewable fuels, rather than discouraging these fuels by lowering their demand.”

# # #

The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association is the leading trade association for the sugarcane industry in Brazil, representing nearly 60 percent of the country’s sugarcane production and processing.  More information on sugarcane ethanol and its role as an advanced biofuel is available at www.sugarcane.org/rfs

Climate change mitigation versus agricultural protectionism: the EU impasse?

By Géraldine Kutas posted May 12, 2016
What would you think if I told you that I want to have a leading role in climate change policy but that I restrict the access of renewable solutions to my market? “You’re totally inconsistent” would be the natural answer. But this is exactly what the European Commission just did.

What would you think if I told you that I want to have a leading role in climate change policy but that I restrict the access of renewable solutions to my market?

“You’re totally inconsistent” would be the natural answer. But this is exactly what the European Commission just did.

The EU has ambitious climate targets. The Commission is currently engaged in drafting its new renewable energy directive and is discussing its strategy post-2020 to decarbonize transport. The same institution, based on the conclusions of the so-called GLOBIOM study, acknowledges that sugarcane ethanol is the conventional biofuels with the highest greenhouse gas savings. Brazil is also producing second-generation ethanol based on sugarcane wastes and residues.  Therefore, it would make sense for the EU to import sugarcane ethanol.

Sugarcane ethanol GHG savings - EU

Wrong answer. Domestic vested interests prevailed over the EU public interest and the Commission decided to remove ethanol from the trade offer that was exchanged with Mercosur yesterday! Consequently, the EU will continue to import oil freely and to promote the consumption of inefficient biodiesel.

Read our position paper and you will get a sense of how disappointed and, to some extent, how frustrated I am.

The EU-Mercosur agreement would provide a unique opportunity to strengthen our collaboration in the sugar and ethanol sector – a sector in which a number of European companies (Shell, Tereos, BP, Louis Dreyfus among others) have already heavily invested in Brazil.

The sustainability and competitiveness of Brazilian sugar and ethanol would be a perfect complement to the EU production, increasing consumers’ welfare, boosting innovation in the bioeconomy while helping to preserve the environment.

It’s time to change the way we look at trade negotiations. They don’t take place in isolation of other policies. The Commission will have a second chance to include sizeable TRQs for sugar and ethanol in the next round of negotiations. Let’s hope it won’t be a missed opportunity!

Our Authors

 

Géraldine Kutas, Head of International Affairs & Senior International Adviser to the President of UNICA Géraldine Kutas
Head of International Affairs & Senior International Adviser to the President

 

Leticia Phillips, Representative-North AmericaLeticia Phillips
Representative, North America

 

Sugarcane Solutions Blog

The ‘year of delivery’ comes to an end

This is our last post of the year. 2016 will definitely go down in history as an eventful year, both on the political and policy levels. The Commission had promised us a ‘year of delivery’, and it did deliver indeed.

Read on

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