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Let’s be smart(er)!

By Géraldine Kutas posted Sep 03, 2015
Considering the traffic these days in Brussels, it really looks like EU institutions are back to school, and so are we! And talking about traffic and transport, the months ahead will be rich of news in the sector.

Considering the traffic these days in Brussels, it really looks like EU institutions are back to school, and so are we! Let’s have a look at what’s coming our way to give you a little taste of what we’ll be talking about over the next few months.

And talking about traffic and transport, the months ahead will be rich of news in the sector.

COP21 is approaching fast (less than 100 days to go now) and the pressure is rising for World leaders to work towards and reach an ambitious and binding climate deal in Paris. The European Commission has committed to reducing its GHG emissions by 40% in 2030, and given the extent of the challenge, all sectors will have to make the necessary efforts to achieve this objective. Indeed, according to the latest Commission reports, the pace of renewables’ penetration in the transport sector has been slow so far (only 5.7% in 2014). All eyes have now turned to the post-2020 framework, around which most of the EU transport debate will revolve in the coming months.

The Commission is getting ready and is scheduled to release a Communication on the Decarbonisation of Transport in the first half of 2016. The question is: what is this strategy going to look like? A few weeks ago, the Commission closed a consultation on the review of the 2011 White Paper on Transport. The verdict? It’s something that UNICA has been advocating for long time: intermediate targets are needed if the EU is serious about achieving its long-term transport decarbonisation objectives. So most of the respondents also said!

The role of electric cars will be important, there’s no one denying that. But in 2030, 90% of EU vehicles will still be running on fuel, according to a recent E4Tech report. That’s why we’ll also need lighter and more efficient cars. The Commission has said it is looking at stricter emission standards for road vehicles. But and perhaps most importantly, we’ll need cars using cleaner fuels. Smarter fuels. And that’s where ethanol can make a difference.

Too often biofuels are seen as a unitary group of transport fuels, regardless of their differences. Smart biofuels are those using production processes, which are responsible and sustainable. Not only do they help decarbonize transport, they can also contribute to a thriving economy. Don’t take our word for it, take that of the Director General of the Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO)! Brazilian sugarcane ethanol does precisely that. It reduces GHG emissions by 90% compared to traditional fossil fuels, it is mostly grown on degraded pastureland, hence not competing with food crops, and it’s creating good jobs

But that’s not all. You’ve probably heard of ‘Smart Cities’, the more efficient, sustainable cities of the future. Sugarcane ethanol can also help make these cities a reality through waste-to-energy processes. One example: bagasse, the fiber residues resulting from sugarcane processing, can and has been used to generate bioelectricity in Brazil, where this has helped reduce emissions of more than 300 million tons of CO₂ in the atmosphere since 2003. Adding to its lower GHG emissions and air quality advantages over traditional fuels, smart biofuels will need to play a role in urban transportation if we are to build a truly sustainable transport system for EU citizens.

The choice is simple; either we stick with the old policies, which fail to make real progress, or we adopt new, smarter ones, which include a role for all greener transport solutions, including ethanol. We still have a few months to help the EU do that, so let’s get back to work!

A realistic fuel mix for post-2020

By Géraldine Kutas posted Jun 29, 2015
Here we are! The ILUC file is finally over and now it seems that no one wants to hear more about biofuels, especially the Commission. However, biofuels are alive and kicking and there has been evidence of their presence in the past few weeks!

Here we are! The ILUC file is finally over and now it seems that no one wants to hear more about biofuels, especially the Commission.

However, biofuels are alive and kicking and there has been evidence of their presence in the past few weeks!

During his opening speech at the EU Sustainable Energy Week, Commissioner Cañete focused on energy efficiency and didn’t even mention biofuels, but he emphasized that the transport sector should be prioritized, particularly through the adoption of ever stricter CO2 emissions standards for vehicles. 

In addition, the Commission released the RES progress report showing that the penetration of renewables in transport has been very slow so far, reaching 5,7% in 2014 and concluding that introduction of higher blends of biofuels will be necessary to put biofuels back on track. After all, Cañete declared that “achieving our 10% target of renewable energy in transport [by 2020] will certainly be challenging, yet feasible.”

At the conference on decarbonisation of road transport, on 18 June, biofuels were not on the agenda, but the biofuels industry – and not only them luckily! – made it loud and clear that a post-2020 energy framework should include targets for renewables in transport. I was actually pleased to see that after the conference Commissioner Cañete used again the #biofuels hashtag for the first time in some weeks in one of his tweets. To get clarity of the post-2020 biofuel policy we would however need a bit more than a hashtag, Mister Commissioner!

These are all little hints that we shouldn’t lose hope and still find the energy to advocate for balanced policies on biofuels and decarbonisation of transport post-2020.

UNICA is fully committed to engaging in the next months for a ‘decarbonisation of transport’ policy that includes all options available on the market. If we want to reduce our transport emissions, we will need a diverse mix of fuels and technologies. We can’t just rely on electric vehicles only - just like we cannot rely only on biofuels. Let’s aim for a realistic, greener fuel mix for 2030.

As you can see from the pic below, I had the chance to meet Mr Cañete at EXPO during his visit to the Brazilian Pavilion and hopefully my message came across!

Visit of Commissioner Arias Cañete to the Brazilian Pavilion

Commissioner Arias Cañete, Dr. Roberto Rodrigues and Géraldine Kutas discussing in front of the sugarcane at the Brazilian Pavilion (Expo Milan).

Environmental Goods Agreement - how green are the EGA negotiations?

By Géraldine Kutas posted Jun 09, 2015
I recently attended a conference in Brussels on the negotiations of the Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA). Quite disappointingly, ethanol is not part of the list of green products falling under the scope of the agreement. The biggest challenge of the negotiations is indeed about deciding on the list of products. Every country promoted a list of products, but ethanol was not part of any of the lists suggested, despite its proven environmental benefits.

I recently attended a conference in Brussels on the negotiations of the Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA). The negotiations, which were mandated by the 2001 Doha Declaration, were launched on a plurilateral basis in July last year by a group of WTO countries (accounting for around 86% of the world trade in green goods) including the European Union. It aims to remove tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade for “green goods and services”.

What are we talking about when referring to environmental goods? There is no clear definition yet. In effect, everything that helps us ‘green’ our economies, from wind turbines, water treatment filters to recycling equipment and air quality monitors could be considered an environmental good. It is estimated that global trade in environmental goods amounts to nearly $1 trillion annually.

So far, already six rounds of negotiations have taken place, with the next round scheduled for next week, from 15-19 June. Quite disappointingly, ethanol is not part of the list of green products falling under the scope of the agreement. The biggest challenge of the negotiations is indeed about deciding on the list of products and, by now, already 650 tariff lines and more than 2,000 products are under consideration. Every country promoted a list of products, but ethanol was not part of any of the lists suggested, despite its proven environmental benefits.

Brazilian sugarcane ethanol reduces GHG emissions by 90% on average compared to gasoline and it achieves among the highest GHG emission savings compared to fossil fuels even when land use change factors are accounted for.

My doubts of course are on the credibility that such project will have if products like ethanol are not included in the list and if new countries do not joint. Countries in EGA are in fact already part of lower tariff schemes. So further reducing tariffs may not have a huge impact on GHG emissions reduction, I’m afraid! In the case of ethanol, tariffs are generally very high (0.19€/liter) in the EU. Tariff reductions, then, would have the potential to yield extraordinary environmental benefits.

During the conference, both Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and Climate & Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete emphasized the positive impact that EGA could and should have in the fight against climate change and made reference to Europe’s role “as major exporter of clean technologies”.

However, contrary to the Commissioners’ words, it seems to me that, as it stands, the EGA will lead to a list of products selected in a somewhat arbitrary manner, rather than on the basis of their environmental benefits. The EGA looks more, for the time being, like a platform for the negotiating parties to advance their exporting interests when it comes to green technologies than a tool to fight climate change.

Trade is not a zero-sum game. If the EGA negotiating parties are serious about making legitimate progress towards addressing global warming, then they would have to widen the list of liberalized products to include all goods that deliver environmental advantages, such as ethanol.

We’ll certainly monitor with great interest the next two rounds of negotiations next week and in July, when the negotiation parties should narrow down the list of products. 

Fancy a visit to Brazil? Brazil comes to you… Come and see us at the Brazilian Pavillon, EXPO Milano 2015

By Géraldine Kutas posted May 12, 2015
This year’s theme of the Universal Exposition EXPO Milano 2015 “Feeding the planet. Energy for life” couldn’t be more spot on for us!

This year’s theme of the Universal Exposition EXPO Milano 2015 “Feeding the planet. Energy for life” couldn’t be more spot on for us!

I’m very excited to present Brazil’s success story with renewable fuels and to organise a conference on “Producing food and energy for a healthier planet: the case of the Brazilian Sugarcane Ethanol”, on Tuesday 2 June in the Brazilian Pavillon, Milan of course!

As I mentioned a few times already in my blogs, Brazilian sugarcane industry typically supplies both food and energy, with a minimal use of land. Only 0.5% of Brazil’s territory is used for bioethanol, with which Brazil managed to replace 40% of gasoline. 

Botton Expo Milano 2015

We’ll have a number of speakers , experts in sugarcane, including  former Minister José Goldemberg, Sven Sielhorst from Solidaridad and Simon Usher Chief Executive Officer at Bonsucro, ready to walk you through the Brazilian experience and we hope this may serve as an inspiration for Europe, which is struggling to make a good use of biofuels.

More information on the event are available here! Come and see us in Milan…as an anticipation I can already tell you that the event will be followed by a cocktail with Brazilian food and drinks, where Chef Diego Lozano will talk about the history of Brazilian pastries to interested participants!!!

The Good, the Bad & The Ugly… about ILUC

By Géraldine Kutas posted Apr 29, 2015
After the disappointment of not winning concessions from Member States on any of their main points, MEPs have – against the will of many – voted in favour of the Council ILUC text. Now it’s time to turn the ‘ILUC page’ and look beyond 2020. Policymakers need to set up a credible framework for the post-2020. Low-ILUC biofuels should be promoted and sugarcane bioethanol is one of those.

Members of the European Parliament finally endorsed the COREPER text on ILUC yesterday morning in plenary. After the disappointment of not winning concessions from Member States on any of their main points, MEPs have – against the will of many – voted in favour of the Council ILUC text. Final rubber stamp (for real this time!) should be given by Member States at the next Energy Council on 8 June.

In the meantime, in case you are confused on the outcome of almost three years of negotiations, here below you can find a summary (I couldn’t help thinking about this movie, which also happened to be quoted by Mr Torvalds during yesterday’s debate!)

“The Good”

  •  Little consolation that the final cap agreed is set at 7%. My comment is: better than nothing! We have always criticized such a black and white approach, but we don’t want to be too negative and at least a higher cap than the 5% proposed by the Commission will allow a little share of bioethanol to remain in the EU biofuels market.

“The Bad”

  • The 0.5% non-binding target for advanced biofuels. With no incentives for advanced biofuels, their ability to participate to the 3% left of the 10% RED target is even more in doubt…

“The Ugly”

  • …and, of course, the exclusion from the deal of the 6.5% sub-target for bioethanol. More sustainable biofuels will therefore not be incentivized in Europe and Member States will not move towards an E10 blend. A real disappointment for bioethanol, considering that biodiesel will cover most of the 7% cap.

It’s time to turn the ‘ILUC page’ and look beyond 2020. Policymakers need to start thinking already about the longer term and set up a credible framework for the post-2020. Low-ILUC biofuels should be promoted and sugarcane bioethanol is one of those.

We see two important milestones in particular: the revision of the Renewable Energy Directive in 2016/2017 and the wider discussions around the decarbonisation of transport. In both cases, we will be there to put sustainable biofuels at center stage.

EU still debates E10, while Brazil moves to a 27% blend

By Géraldine Kutas posted Mar 16, 2015
I just can’t help praising the decision taken by the Brazilian government to increase, today, the ethanol blend in gasoline to 27%. A question came straight to my mind: Is the EU not simply lagging behind? Is it not incredibly ironic to see Europeans getting cold feet about moving to a 6.5% content of ethanol (in energy) in petrol?

Working for Brazilian interests, you may say my judgment is biased, but I just can’t help praising the decision taken by the Brazilian government to increase, today, the ethanol blend in gasoline to 27%. This move is expected to have a positive impact on the biofuels industry and will no doubt have a positive impact on the environment.

A question came straight to my mind: Is the EU not simply lagging behind? As Brazil moves to 27%, is it not incredibly ironic to see Europeans getting cold feet about moving to a 6.5% content of ethanol (in energy) in petrol?

I mean, the EU wants to be at the forefront in the fight against climate change and you’d expect sustainable fuels to be promoted over less sustainable ones. However, it seems the EU is not even ready to generalise the use of E10! In the current debate around the 6.5% sub-target for bioethanol in petrol, some argue it would go against a level playing field between biodiesel and bioethanol - despite the superior GHG savings of the latter. Another reason invoked is technical compatibility with the current fleet. In the meantime, the United States widely use E10 and Brazil is even allowing higher blends.

You might ask yourselves: why the EU is struggling with this?

ENVI MEPs barely managed to pass a sub-target at 6.5% in their second reading position and Member States don’t seem overly enthusiastic.

The reality is that only a few people actually understand the meaning of ‘that 6.5%’. I would like to explain it here and respond to the main concerns raised by MEPs and Member States.

A 6.5% of renewable energy (in energy) in petrol corresponds to an ethanol blend of 9.5% in volume (E9.5). Although the European Commission declared in 2012 that E10 should be the main petrol fuel used in all the Member States by 2013, only 3 Member States (France, Germany and Finland) are currently selling this blend in fuel stations.

The good news is that there are no technical barriers preventing widespread use of E10 across Europe, as 90% of all cars produced after the year 2000 can run on E10. The only element needed is the political will to incentivise bioethanol usage among European consumers who are otherwise attracted by diesel, currently benefiting from lower taxation compared to gasoline.

Another essential question needs to be addressed at this point: why does a level playing field between biodiesel and bioethanol not make much sense?

Because biodiesel is already the preferred option in Europe and, with a cap on traditional biofuels, Member States will meet their target for conventional biofuels (at whichever level it’s eventually set: 5, 6 or 7%) just by using biodiesel.

What would be the consequence? Bioethanol would be out of the market, despite its sustainability!

It’s absolutely critical to understand the consequences of a cap on traditional biofuels and the subsequent necessity for a specific sub-target for bioethanol. In addition, if the EU market stays locked with E5, there will be no space for advanced ethanol as there is currently enough conventional production to supply this blend.

We, at UNICA, tried to make it simple and understandable for non-experts in this infographic. I hope this helps!

Infographic for blog

It’s now up to Member States to show commitment to the reduction of transport emissions

By Géraldine Kutas posted Feb 24, 2015
Today, the European Parliament’s Environment committee adopted a second reading position on the ILUC dossier, and I’d like to congratulate MEPs for many of the points they expressed through their vote.

Today, the European Parliament’s Environment committee adopted a second reading position on the ILUC dossier, and I’d like to congratulate MEPs for many of the points they expressed through their vote.

First, they signed off on a 6.5% target for energy from renewable sources in petrol by 2020. At UNICA, we believe this particular amendment was critical to the development of a more balanced biofuel policy in Europe. Today, MEPs agreed on a 6% cap on conventional biofuels. This cap could be entirely met by biodiesel, leaving no room for bioethanol (please see our new infographics here on why this would be the case).


6.5% sub-target for RES in petrol

 

If we want to be serious about reducing emissions from petrol, we need to be able to blend it with bioethanol, a fuel guaranteeing significant emission savings, even when ILUC is taken into consideration. The 6.5% target provides certainty for bioethanol and will help the EU reduce its transport emissions.

Second, we are satisfied with the 1,25% sub-target for advanced biofuels, assorted with multiple counting. We believe it is a realistic ambition and a good signal sent to investors. Developing advanced biofuels requires considerable R&D efforts. For projects to reach commercial scale – a great challenge for some advanced biofuels – the regulatory framework needs to be crystal-clear.

Finally, I am also particularly glad to see that ENVI MEPs agreed to consider a longer timeframe for biofuel policy beyond 2020. We hope this will break the ‘code of silence’ around biofuels for the post-2020 period that has prevailed in the Commission over recent months.

As the Parliament will now engage in trialogues with Member States, we urge the rapporteur Nils Torvalds to carry these three points forward, especially the 6.5% target for renewable energy in petrol.

I’m aware that there will be limited flexibility amongst Member States to deviate from the Common Position adopted in first reading. The Council openly stated that the target for renewable energy in petrol was seen as unnecessary (Council Statement accompanying the first reading position) as it would not directly tackle ILUC. However, I strongly believe that the one way of tackling ILUC is to incentivise the consumption of low-ILUC biofuels such as bioethanol and even more, Brazilian sugarcane bioethanol. Sugarcane bioethanol brings emission savings of 55.8%, even when the ILUC impact is taken into account.

My last word will be for Member States: if you are serious about reducing transport emissions, use every opportunity at hand, including the wider use of bioethanol to reduce emissions from petrol!

Our New Year’s Resolutions for the Reduction of Transport Emissions

By Géraldine Kutas posted Jan 22, 2015
Well before we started thinking about our New Year’s resolutions, the European Commission published on 16 December its work programme for 2015. We can only applaud the targeted nature of measures envisaged and this new Commission’s desire for better regulation. However this ‘to do list’ seems to be overlooking some crucial aspects, that we hope the Commission will address in the course of 2015.

Well before we started thinking about our New Year’s resolutions, the European Commission published on 16 December its work programme for 2015, based on 23 new initiatives built around 10 key policy priorities.

We can only applaud the targeted nature of measures envisaged and this new Commission’s desire for better regulation. We believe this commitment can help Europe meet its political objectives.

However this ‘to do list’ seems to be overlooking some crucial aspects, that we hope the Commission will address in the course of 2015.

Decarbonisation of the energy mix appears as a key building block of the new Energy Union currently being designed by the European Commission. At UNICA we want to make sure that reducing transport emissions plays a key role in bringing down overall emissions. And we are unsure of what the Commission is planning to undertake in this respect.

If we go back to the 2030 Energy and Climate Framework published a year ago, or even to the October European Council conclusions, there are only limited indications of how the EU will concretely reduce emissions in transport. Despite calls for a review of the 2011 Transport White Paper during parliamentary hearings – and the preparation of an own-initiative report on the topic by Wim van de Camp MEP, the Commission has so far remained silent on this particular point.

At UNICA we remain optimistic and would like to recommend some New Year’s resolutions to the Commission. We have gathered some thoughts in a new position paper on reducing transport emissions by 2030, where we call for EU policymakers to:

  • Prioritise transport  as  part  of  the  measures of the 2030 package to  be  proposed in  2015, if  Europe  wants  to  be  credible  in  reaching  the  40%  GHG  reduction  target  agreed  in  October 2014;
  • Extend and increase the target of the Fuel Quality Directive after 2020, as this would provide the right incentive to encourage road transport emissions reductions beyond efficiency gains (“EU  2030  Road  Transport Decarbonisation  Scenario  Analysis”, E4tech, 2014);
  • Promote a more balanced approach to the biofuel dossier to reflect the real environmental performance of biofuels, both conventional and advanced;
  • Promote a better incentive system for stimulating the production and consumption of advanced biofuels;
  • Clarify how the 27% EU renewable target will also translate in concrete measures and incentives for biofuels in the EU transport fuel mix.

A new study developed by E4tech, presented at our event in November, clearly states that biofuels will remain an essential component for decarbonising transport and, in the scenario to 2030, they have the potential to contribute up to 30MtCO₂ emissions savings with a 10% FQD target, instead of 6%.

Something to bear in mind for the implementation of our New Year’s resolutions!

Car efficiency alone is not enough to decarbonise transport!

By Géraldine Kutas posted Dec 15, 2014
On 4 December 2014, the Environment Committee in the European Parliament held a public hearing on air quality and on national emissions beyond 2020. Emissions from road traffic were naturally discussed and the debate focused, as expected, on testing methods.

On 4 December 2014, the Environment Committee in the European Parliament held a public hearing on air quality and on national emissions beyond 2020. Emissions from road traffic were naturally discussed and the debate focused, as expected, on testing methods. The new test methodology to count for real-driving emissions should be introduced in EU legislation not earlier than 2017 and a representative from Daimler, explained that real driving test (World Light Duty Test Procedure) will require “massive” hardware changes for car manufacturers and a two-step approach to implement the changes at the manufacturing plants.

The bottom line is that real benefits in reducing carbon emissions from transport won’t be seen for approximately another 10 years.

In this context, my call for a more balanced approach to biofuels makes even more sense. Can the EU realistically only rely on car efficiency to decarbonise transport?

It’s true that great improvements have been made in vehicles’ emissions and that EU targets for 2015 have been met already in 2014, but all this is based on inaccurate measurements that do not reflect real driving conditions. In the meantime, biofuels are also under scrutiny and good performing biofuels such as sugarcane ethanol - which can definitely be part of the solution for a more sustainable transport system - are treated in the same way as less performing biofuels. Transport is left without any sound strategy to reduce its emissions!

Once again we encourage the Commission, which will facilitate second reading negotiations on ILUC, and the European Parliament and Member States, to pursue a more nuanced approach to biofuels and work towards a regulatory framework which promotes the best performing products and measures, such as bioethanol in transport and real driving test cycles for vehicles.

European leaders give hopes on transport post-2020

By Géraldine Kutas posted Nov 06, 2014
On 24 October European leaders reached an agreement on the framework which will set the energy and climate scene for the next 15 years. The conclusions call on the Commission to examine instruments for “renewable energy sources in transport” post 2020 in a comprehensive and technologically neutral way, which could possibly involve an extension of the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) after 2020.

On 24 October European leaders reached an agreement on the framework which will set the energy and climate scene for the next 15 years. The deal embraces several elements which will form the basis of the legislative proposals to be developed by the European Commission.

I complained in the past already about the lack of ambition of the 2030 Climate and Energy Package in terms of transport-specific targets and I keep on arguing that, if Europe does really want to meet its climate targets, transport should remain high on the agenda.

The conclusions call on the Commission to examine instruments for “renewable energy sources in transport” post 2020 in a comprehensive and technologically neutral way, which could possibly involve an extension of the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) after 2020.

The biofuels industry needs certainty after 2020 and an extension of the FQD could provide it. UNICA encourages the European Commission to start discussions on this as soon as possible. My hopes are quite low, especially after I heard that some MEPs in the ENVI Committee, using their power of scrutiny under  comitology, tabled objections to the new implementing measure proposed by the Commission on Article 7a of the FQD. Should the objection go through, we could expect additional delays for the implementation of the existing Directive. This would postpone any meaningful decision on fuel quality after 2020.

If you want to hear more on the transport framework post-2020 and on how Brazilian Sugarcane can contribute, join us on 19 November in Brussels for a discussion on “Think Energy. Think Brazil. Perspectives on the 2030 Energy and Climate Package”. Our experts will exchange views with policymakers and E4TECH will present a new study on GHG emissions from road transport by 2030.

Look forward to seeing you at the Residence Palace on 19 November!

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

 

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