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Don’t derail the decarbonisation of transport

By Géraldine Kutas posted Oct 20, 2017
Climate change does not wait for the roll out of new technologies - we need to use every tool that is at our disposal today.

If Europe wants to get anywhere close to hitting its target of a 40% Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reduction by 2030, it will need to tackle transport emissions, which account for about 25% of total EU GHG emissions. To further complicate the issue, road transport is set to grow 30% by 2030. We need available solutions that are deployable now if we are to mitigate global warming. Sustainable biofuels are one of the few available solutions that can help today to reduce carbon emissions in transport. In Brazil for example, the use of bioethanol led to a decrease of 370m tonnes in carbon emissions in just 13 years, which is more than Spain emitted in 2015. The average life span of a car is 10 years and the existing fleet runs primarily on fossil fuel. In fact, only 2.8% of the existing EU fleet is comprised of alternative energy vehicles. This means that in the short and possibly mid-term, introducing a higher ethanol blend is one of the only realistic options to lower GHG emissions in transport. Sustainable sugarcane ethanol results in at least 70% fewer GHG emissions than petrol, and is available now!

Despite these facts, the Environment Committee in the European Parliament risks torpedoing this solution by confirming the phase out of crop-based biofuels. This would not only kill this sector in Europe but also any prospect of producing advanced biofuels, which often depends on the same companies and feedstocks for production. Not to mention, of course, any real shot at decarbonizing the transport sector in the short-term. This extreme policy change, only two years after a framework for biofuels was agreed upon and before the effect of the policy can be properly assessed, will discourage  investment in the EU. The key arguments for this policy change, namely Indirect Land-Use Change (ILUC) and concerns that biofuels lead to higher food prices are based on non-verifiable assumptions that should not form the basis for the phase out of a whole industry. Not all first generation biofuels are created equal and sugarcane ethanol is one of the most sustainable biofuels available.

In order to ensure that the EU can make a real contribution to the decarbonisation of transport, the Environment Committee should:

  •  Set a renewables target in transport to at least 20%;
  • Keep the current cap of 7% for highly sustainable biofuels, which is essential to the decarbonisation of European transportation;
  • Evaluate first-generation biofuels based on their GHG savings and sustainability criteria;
  • Not include ILUC estimates when calculating the GHG emission savings of crop-based biofuels, as long as a predictable methodology based on verified data and sound review process is in place.

Climate change does not wait for the roll out of new technologies - we need to use every tool that is at our disposal today.

Is the EU serious about sugar reform?

By Géraldine Kutas posted Oct 02, 2017
Last Saturday marked a milestone in changing the EU sugar regime. Lifting the European sugar quota is an important step towards a more competitive European sugar industry.. This measure will however remain incomplete if the sector continues to be protected from international markets.

There is hardly a single sector in the EU that is as protected as much as sugar. For decades the EU sugar beet industry benefited, together with other measures, of minimum prices and extremely high import tariffs. At a current international price for raw sugar of €255 per tonne, the import tariff stands at a whopping €339 a tonne, meaning that world global sugar producers are effectively locked out of the European market.

The fact that the EU allows imports from a number of countries – such as least developed countries, African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, and countries with which the EU has a trade agreement – does not make much difference. For a start, these countries are generally less competitive than Brazil. But importantly, those agreements are causing trade distortions rather than encouraging a level playing field.

It is worthwhile to remind ourselves of the true costs of the protectionism of the sugar sector:

-        it makes raw materials for EU industries more expensive, in times of increasing global demand.  This includes of course the food industry, but also other industries critical to European competitiveness, such as the chemical and pharmaceutical industries that need sugar as raw material;

-        it damages EU importers and refiners of sugar cane, leading the famous British sugar refiner Tate & Lyle to become one of the only companies to advocate for Brexit;

-        it damages the EU’s reputation as a supporter of global and fair trade;

-        it prevents European sugar industry from becoming truly competitive, and lastly,

-        EU consumers are paying a much higher price for sugar than they would if the trade in sugar were free.

Last Saturday marked a milestone in changing the EU sugar regime. Lifting the European sugar quota is an important step towards a more competitive European sugar industry. This measure will however remain incomplete if the sector continues to be protected from international markets. In fact, lifting the sugar quota alone will turn the EU sugar industry into a mercantilist model: without any limits on sugar production and no serious competition, European sugar producers may be tempted to dump surplus sugar out onto world markets.

The Mercosur trade deal is an opportunity to make a further step towards a competitive and fair sugar regime that does not only work in favour of the European sugar sector but also the consumer and downstream industry. The EU should use this opportunity now that it can shape the conditions together with a strong trading partner.    

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

Brazil to Launch Ambitious Biofuels Program

Building, in part, on the successes and lessons learned from two signature American policies, Brazil is poised to launch a government program that will support the continued development and use of low-carbon, clean biofuels. This new initiative, dubbed RenovaBio, will play a key role in meeting Brazil’s ambitious commitments made at the Paris climate summit in December 2015.

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