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ITRE vote on RED II – taking on the Bonn spirit

By Géraldine Kutas posted Nov 24, 2017
Next Tuesday the EU Parliament’s ITRE committee will vote on the Commission’s RED II proposal. It is important to get it right before the text goes to the whole house for approval on 13 December. We can’t wait for the perfect solution. We need all available solutions NOW.

Next Tuesday the EU Parliament’s ITRE committee (Industry, Research and Energy) will vote on the Commission’s RED II proposal. This directive will provide the framework for renewables support in the EU and will be a critical element to ensure that the EU can fulfil its climate target and do its fair share to keep global warming below 2⁰C.

The committee’s vote is a crucial step towards the adoption of the text in the European Parliament. It is therefore important to get it right before the text goes to the whole house for approval on 13 December. This is not an easy task in view of the complexities and sometimes unintended consequences of renewables support schemes.

While attending COP23 in Bonn it became blatantly clear to me that climate change demands urgent action in transportation. Simply waiting for full-scale electrification in transport – still decades upon decades away – is simply not an option. So far the transport sector in Europe has contributed far too little to getting carbon emissions down.

An ambitious renewables target for transport is one measure that would help move the decarbonisation of Europe forward. The 12% renewables target for the transport sector proposed by Rapporteur José Blanco López is a step into the right direction, in particular compared with the Commission’s approach that wanted no transport-specific target at all. But I think we should be even more ambitious: 15% should be the minimum target, but 20% represents a level that would provide for a meaningful and adequate reduction of CO2 emissions.  

In Bonn it also dawned on policy makers and climate advocates alike that we need every sustainable solution available if we want to have a realistic chance of reaching our climate targets. There is no single silver bullet that can tackle the issue alone. Electrification is certainly critical to achieve the climate goals in the long term but cannot achieve the necessary emission savings in the short/medium term. One of the options we need to harness now is sustainable bioenergy and biofuels. In Brazil, sugarcane ethanol, a sustainable biofuel with  90% CO2 savings compared to petrol, has directly cut transport CO2–equivalent emissions by 370m tonnes in just 13 years. In contrast in the EU greenhouse gas emissions in transport are still rising.

Next Tuesday the ITRE Committee should make sure that the EU can use all sustainable solutions to fight climate change that are at our disposal. We can’t wait for the perfect solution. We need all available solutions NOW.

COP 23 – We are here!

By Géraldine Kutas posted Nov 12, 2017
• Visit UNICA’s booth at COP23, Bonn zone • Attend our discussion on how biofuels can fight climate change and promote sustainable development at the Brazilian Pavilion on 15 November at 14:00 CET with speakers from ApexBrasil, SE4ALL / Below 50, the World Bank, and UNICA.

  • Visit UNICA’s booth at COP23 in Bonn, Germany
  • Attend our discussion on how biofuels can fight climate change and promote sustainable development at the Brazilian Pavilion on 15 November at 14:00 CET with speakers from ApexBrasil, SE4ALL / Below 50, the World Bank, and UNICA. 

Last year was the warmest year recorded to date, and 2017 is on course to become the second or third warmest year, according to the World Meteorological Organisation. There were many weather-related natural disasters in 2017: the Atlantic hurricane season was one of the most active on record, major monsoon floods caused hundreds of deaths in the Indian subcontinent, and even the Republic of Ireland experienced some of the most extreme weather the island has seen in decades. Fundamentally, climate change threatens crops, wildlife and freshwater supplies. At the opening ceremony of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP23) in Bonn, Germany, the host country Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said, “The need for urgency is obvious. Our world is in distress from extreme weather events caused by climate change.”

The progress achieved at COP21 in Paris was significant, but agreements alone are not enough. We need action. While most of the United Nations countries have already ratified the agreement, the momentum needs to be sustained, and ambitious policies need to be implemented in order to curb GHG emissions and limit global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. It is now time for countries to think about their renewed pledges in time for the COP24 meeting next year where participants will take stock of national progress toward achieving climate goals.

EU’s 2030 target of cutting emissions by 40% is “very robust”, according to the European Commission’s climate negotiator Elina Bardram. However, EU’s progress against that target will depend on implementing the policies that will help achieve different sub-targets, such as those in the transport sector.

Transport accounts for a quarter of all EU GHG emissions in the EU, 70% of which come specifically from road transport. To address this sector, the Commission recently published the second batch of legislative proposals in its Mobility Package “Europe on the Move”, including the post 2020 CO2 standards with the target of 30% fewer CO2 emissions from new passenger cars by 2030.

The 30% CO2 reduction is certainly a much needed step towards decarbonizing the sector, but will this be enough to meet the Commission’s unofficial transport sub-target of a 60% CO2 reduction by 2050? The Renewables Energy Directive (REDII) provides an opportunity to complement the Mobility Package - which decarbonizes the vehicle technology - by decarbonizing transport fuel. This sector must be addressed holistically in order to reach the 2050 scenario and fuels are an inextricable part of the solution.

Unfortunately, not only has the 10% transport target in the first RED been removed, but REDII specifically proposes to reduce conventional biofuels from the current 7% cap to 3.8%. Instead of cutting conventional biofuels the EU should allow for cleaner more sustainable fuels that are readily available and can make a different in the short and mid-term decarbonization efforts. Brazilian sugarcane ethanol can and should play a bigger role in the EU as it reduces GHG emissions by 70% compared to fossil fuels, and has a low ILUC impact as assessed by the Commission itself.

This is already happening on a global scale. In Brazil, the use of bioethanol in flex-fuel vehicles has led to a decrease of 370m tonnes in carbon emissions in just 13 years – the equivalent of carbon absorption of 2.5 billion trees over 20 years. 

It is important to look at the transportation sector in a comprehensive manner and deploy all available solutions now, while in parallel investing in future fuels and technologies if we are to meet the overall Paris Agreement targets. Fuels are a critical to the solution, and conventional biofuels in particular have the potential to significantly decarbonize the sector today.

Come visit the UNICA booth in Bonn to learn more about how this is working in practice in Brazil and around the world.


UNICA Booth is located in the Bonn zone, exhibition area, 1st floor in front of the coffee bar.

On 15 November at 14:00 CET the Brazilian Pavilion will host a panel discussion entitled “Biofuels: fighting climate change and beyond”.

  • Ambassador Roberto Jaguaribe, the president of the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (Apex-Brasil), will tell us more about how Brazil can cooperate with other countries to help them in their transition sustainable biofuels.
  • Gerard Ostheimer, Global Lead for the SE4ALL Sustainable Bioenergy High Impact Opportunity / Below 50, will address the deployment of biofuels as a cleaner and affordable fuel, especially in developing countries.
  • Celine Ramstein, Climate Change Specialist at the World Bank will explain how carbon-price mechanisms can stimulate the use of biofuels, creating a higher income for renewable energy producers.
  • Géraldine Kutas from UNICA will provide concrete examples of the contribution of Brazilian sugarcane ethanol to climate change mitigation and of social inclusion, revealing data on IDH, income and education rate in municipalities where sugarcane is produced.

Mercosur: sweeten the deal

By Géraldine Kutas posted Nov 07, 2017
The EU-Mercosur trade deal is a once in a generation opportunity, don’t let it slip away. Sweeten the deal!

The EU-Mercosur trade deal is close to the finishing line and the final breakthrough might still come by the end of the year. This trade agreement between the EU and the four Mercosur Members  - Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay - would be the largest bilateral trade deal the EU has ever brokered. The deal would indeed be unprecedented in many respects: It would be the first time that the economies of Mercosur open up to a major trading block and also by far the largest deal between the EU and emerging economies.  

Now is a unique window of opportunity and there is strong political will on the side of the Mercosur countries to get the deal finalised. This would not only open up a huge market for EU products and services, but also send another strong signal, after the successful trade negotiations with Japan earlier this year, that the EU is seizing its role as the world’s foremost trading power.

However, there still remain some stumbling blocks that could put the deal at risk. Not surprisingly, the agriculture sector is the main point of contention as the Mercosur countries are very competitive in products such as sugar and ethanol, in which the EU has major defensive interests.

Sugarcane field

But trade is not a zero sum game and its benefits cannot be measured by the increase of exports alone. Increased access to Brazilian sugarcane products through the Mercosur deal is an example where the benefits for EU industry go far beyond what the trade balance indicates. Indeed, as René Van Sloten, Executive Director Industrial Policy at Cefic, the European Chemical Industry Council, said: “including sugar and ethanol into the Mercosur trade deal would offer the possibility for a win-win outcome for both sides.”

EU-Mercosur benefits of including SC products

So how could EU industry benefit from increased access to raw sugarcane products?

Sugar and ethanol are important sustainable feedstocks for the European chemical industry. Products such as plastics, paint and coatings all require feedstock which today is mainly sourced from fossil fuels, but that could be replaced by ethanol. Also sugar is a key ingredient for the bio-industry, being indispensable for biotechnological processes. Further, sugarcane ethanol has tremendous potential to decarbonise the transportation sector, which currently account for almost a quarter of EU GHG emissions. Including sugar and ethanol into the deal would help EU industry getting the right quality at a fair price. According to René van Sloten, EU industry has to endure 40-60% extra costs for ethanol because of import tariffs, in contrast fossil fuel ethanol can enter the EU without any tariff. 

Consequently the EU chemical industry could produce at lower costs which would make it more competitive. This would also have a domino effect down the supply chain, making products cheaper for business and consumers.

EU-Mercosur tariff

Brazilian sugarcane is also among the most sustainable renewable feedstocks with the highest greenhouse gas (GHG) saving potential. Gaining access to this feedstock would not only help European industry to lower its GHG emissions but also to boost the bio-based industry. This industry has an enormous potential to contribute to the circular economy with new products and solutions.  Gaining better access to renewable feedstock would help industry to increase its investments in bio-based production plants in Europe, which in turn would increase demand for bioethanol also to the benefit of European producers.

Europe should take these benefits into account that the inclusion of sugarcane products into the trade deal can bring and not only look at the defensive interests of the EU agriculture sector.

The EU-Mercosur trade deal is a once in a generation opportunity, don’t let it slip away. Sweeten the deal!

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

Biofuels in the Renewable Energy Directive – the final call

On 17 May representatives of the European Parliament, member states and the European Commission will meet to negotiate the provisions on biofuels in REDII. This might be the last chance to find a compromise that ensures the future of a technology that is critical to reduce carbon emissions in transport.

Read on


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