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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!

Biofuels, the missing link

By Géraldine Kutas posted Oct 23, 2014
After two intense weeks of confirmation hearings in the Parliament, the Junker Commission has been confirmed by the Parliament. It was described by Mr Juncker himself as the “last-chance Commission”. When it comes to climate and energy policy however, Mr Juncker’s team failed to go down that ambitious route by omitting an important contributor to future emission reductions in transport: biofuels.

After two intense weeks of confirmation hearings in the Parliament, highly political discussions in Brussels, Strasbourg and EU capitals and after a mini re-shuffle of portfolios, the Junker Commission has been confirmed by the Parliament.

It was described by Mr Juncker himself as the “last-chance Commission”.

I can only agree with him. To regain trust, the EU needs to demonstrate its commitment to ‘Better Regulation’, as well as consistency and ambition in the policy proposed.

When it comes to climate and energy policy however, Mr Juncker’s team failed to go down that ambitious route by omitting an important contributor to future emission reductions in transport: biofuels.

I can only express concerns and regrets about this oversight.

At the hearings, discussions largely focused on the 2030 Climate and Energy targets and the ETS reform, but there was no meaningful debate over the role that transport can and should play in meeting these overall emission reduction targets. Remember that transport represents as much as 30% of EU greenhouse gas emissions!

We now have no fewer than three relevant Commissioners for biofuels: Maroš Šefčovič (Vice-President for Energy Union), Miguel Arias Cañete (Energy and Climate Commissioner) and Violeta Bulc (Transport Commissioner). However, none of them stressed the role of biofuels in helping the EU deliver on its 2030 climate and energy agenda.

Comments on the absence of transport-specific targets in the 2030 Climate and Energy package were voiced a few times by MEPs but received no concrete answers from Commissioners-designate.

Mr Šefčovič, who becomes Vice-President for the Energy Union, underlined his reluctance towards first generation biofuels, due to concerns around their GHG emission reduction performance and on their impact on food prices.  On the other hand he supported second-generation biofuels and stressed the need to quickly reach a compromise on the ILUC proposal. As said before, biofuels urgently need regulatory certainty. But it doesn’t mean that policymakers should hastily close a deal. The second reading should provide opportunities for a more nuanced approach. 

As for Mr Cañete, our new Energy and Climate Commissioner, he did not even mention biofuels during his hearing and carefully avoided questions on a new target for renewable energy in transport post-2020.

Ms Bulc, the new Transport Commissioner, did quickly stress her commitment to introduce a fair share of alternative fuels and renewables in the transport sector, without further details on how she would make this possible.

As the second reading of the ILUC file is soon to start in the Parliament and the Council, it is critical for the Commission to play a strong role in driving the dossier to a satisfactory close.

In the Parliament, the rapporteur Nils Torvalds wants discussions to resume quickly. But the Council is now only scheduled to communicate its common position in January, which means the second reading examination will be delayed in the Parliament.

In the Council, strong divergences amongst Member States led to a rather weak agreement. The Italian Presidency gave low priority to the issue and the dossier will likely be handed over to Latvia in January.

Once again, I ask policymakers to give a new impulse to the policy debate on biofuels and work together for a solution which takes into account the role of transport in reducing emissions and the environmental contribution of biofuels such as sugarcane ethanol. A more comprehensive analysis on the unbalance between diesel and gasoline in Europe is needed and low-ILUC biofuels should be incentivized in a decisive way. Disruptive measures affecting first generation biofuels will only harm the entire biofuels sector, making it difficult to invest in advanced biofuel technologies.

I hope this argument will be raised at the European Council this week and form part of discussions on the 2030 framework for climate and energy.

A policy framework for biofuels post-2020 is needed, or we will lose a major instrument to reduce emissions in transport. It is the missing link of the new Commission’s agenda.

Biofuels: The Clock is Ticking

By Géraldine Kutas posted Sep 08, 2014
The ENVI committee will soon reopen discussions on the ILUC proposal in second reading, under the leadership of the new rapporteur, Nils Torvalds. However, the Council will not transmit its position before November. Once more: delay, delay, delay!

After an intense summer break, which saw Brussels far from quiet but rather busy speculating about the nominations to top EU posts, business has resumed in the institutions.

In the Parliament, the Environment committee has already met to vote on the questionnaire to be addressed to the Commissioner-Designates for Environment and Climate in upcoming hearings. The committee will soon reopen discussions on the ILUC proposal in second reading, under the leadership of the new rapporteur, Nils Torvalds, and newly designated shadow rapporteurs such as Christopher Fjellner for the EPP. As I mentioned already in previous posts, in second reading only the leading committee is involved in developing the Parliament position and the associated Committee (ITRE) is only entitled to propose amendments ahead of the plenary vote.

Member States, which agreed on a Council position on 13 June, have not yet transmitted their common position to the Parliament. We hear that this will only happen in November. All this tells me that Member States are not particularly eager to resume what they see as a controversial debate.  With such a sluggish approach, the file is unlikely to see a conclusion before mid-2015.

Once more: delay, delay, delay! Despite the ticking clock in the background, EU policymakers fail to realise the urgency of the situation.

A report published at the end of August highlights the consequences of these inconsistent and delayed policies – in the EU and elsewhere. In its 2014 medium-term forecast on Renewable Energy, the IEA notes that “biofuels for transport face a slower growth and persistent policy challenges”. The lack of clarity in how the EU aims to address the sustainability of biofuels and the difficulty in foreseeing a rapid epilogue to the ILUC proposal have a clear detrimental impact on the biofuels industry, which is in no condition to plan long-term investments.

Even the Commission, which initially put forward the legislative proposal to fix the ILUC issue, now seems to be turning its back to the whole debate. It appears that the line of the new Transport Commissioner for the next five years will be to focus more on alternative fuels (EVs, LNG, CNG, etc) than on biofuels, given the legislative uncertainty on ILUC. 

Bottom line, the climate around biofuels seems even more complicated than before the summer. Policy makers are taking time and industry is struggling. The EU should decide a line of action and implement it if it wants the biofuels industry to be able to help in the decarbonisation of transport and in the development of advanced biofuels. A more balanced approach is necessary to allow good biofuels (whether conventional or advanced) to contribute to the fuel mix and align Europe with other countries where gasoline is preferred to diesel and higher blends of ethanol are in use.

Until a more balanced approach is adopted, the clock will continue to tick - worryingly so. 

Let the second reading start!

By Géraldine Kutas posted Jul 15, 2014
After a short break occasioned by the European elections in May, it will soon be time for new and returning Members of the European Parliament to embark on second reading discussions on ILUC. Member States adopted their common position on 13 June and, as soon the text is presented to MEPs in Plenary, the second reading phase will start. In this important new step of the process, UNICA would like to send a few words to the members of the recently formed Environment Committee, who will have a special role to play on the dossier in the second half of the year.

After a short break occasioned by the European elections in May, it will soon be time for new and returning Members of the European Parliament to embark on second reading discussions on ILUC. Member States adopted their common position on 13 June and, as soon the text is presented to MEPs in Plenary, the second reading phase will start. In this important new step of the process, UNICA would like to send a few words to the members of the recently formed Environment Committee, who will have a special role to play on the dossier in the second half of the year.

Dear Members of the Environment Committee,

As you are aware (or soon will be), the ILUC proposal, described by the Commission as a tool “to limit global land conversion for biofuel production, and raise the climate benefits of biofuels”, has been subject to discussions for already 18 months. The proposal has triggered heated debates and to date the positions of the three institutions still diverge. After a first reading position was adopted in the Parliament last September, Member States’ Energy Ministers reached a common position on 13 June, driven by the Hellenic Presidency. Where have discussions led to? Member States proposed a cap on conventional biofuels at 7% and a non-mandatory sub target for advanced biofuels at 0.5%, while the Parliament favoured a 6% cap on conventional biofuels and a 2.5% sub-target for advanced biofuels in 2020.

As if the gap between Parliament and Council was not clear enough, a group of 8 countries (Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Spain, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia) sent a declaration to the Greek Presidency right before the June Council meeting stressing that the 7% cap was an absolute red line and that any tripartite agreement on a lower cap would not be acceptable.

We were glad to see Member States realise how important it is to provide certainty for investments by keeping a cap at least at 7%. However, we still think the cap is not the best way to tackle the ILUC issue and that a more balanced and nuanced approach is to be found. The Council’s common position will now be subject to your amendments and eventually to tripartite negotiations. You probably remember how tight the vote was last year - the position could only be adopted in plenary by a slim margin of 29 votes, with a majority composed by ALDE, S&D, Greens and GUE/NGL. In this Parliament more than half of members are newly elected and a new majority will need to be formed to reach an agreement in second reading. UNICA counts on the new rapporteur, still to be appointed, to bring negotiations to a close as quickly as possible, in cooperation with the Italian Presidency. If the EU is serious about reducing transport emissions, agreement must be found shortly to provide sustainable biofuels with the certainty they need on EU markets.

From our side, we will use this occasion to reiterate once more that a biofuels policy based on a cap on all conventional biofuels doesn’t provide the necessary instruments to really identify and encourage biofuels that are performing better in terms of CO2 emission reductions. With its black and white approach, the Council’s common position does not acknowledge the sound environmental performance and sustainability of certain conventional biofuels, like Brazilian sugarcane ethanol, and fails to promote their use even when they have superior environmental credentials when all emissions and environmental factors are taken into account.

Of note, a dedicated 7.5% sub-target for renewable energy in European petrol, as adopted by the previous Parliament in September 2013, is essential because it will help the EU to reach more cost-effectively its GHG emission savings target and in a more environmentally responsible manner.

We also strongly support the development of new and innovative biofuels technologies and we suggest a better incentive system than double-counting and a modest 0.5% sub-target.  For stimulating the production and consumption of advanced biofuels, we will advocate for a sub-target for advanced biofuels of at least 2% by 2020.

We hope that the result of upcoming negotiations will bring us to a more nuanced outcome for biofuels policy and we hope that MEPs will bring to the debate on the 2030 framework the important topic of a specific target for renewables in transport post-2020, as we believe it would trigger innovation in the advanced biofuels sector.

Yours sincerely,

Géraldine Kutas

Head of International Affairs, UNICA

Council position on ILUC finally adopted by EU Energy Ministers

By Géraldine Kutas posted Jun 13, 2014
Today, European Energy Ministers finally adopted the Council’s position on ILUC. I have expressed already my disappointment for the lack of ambition showed by Member States. This deal doesn’t lead to a better framework for investments in the biofuels sector, especially in advanced biofuels, and the future discussions with the European Parliament do not let envisage any positive developments.

Today, European Energy Ministers finally adopted the Council’s position on ILUC, after EU ambassadors passed the Greek compromise last week. Key elements of the positions are a cap for conventional biofuels at 7% and a non-binding sub-target for advanced biofuels at 0.5% with three grounds for Member States to divert from it.

I have expressed already my disappointment for the lack of ambition showed by Member States. This deal doesn’t lead to a better framework for investments in the biofuels sector, especially in advanced biofuels, and the future discussions with the European Parliament do not let envisage any positive developments.

Ahead of the Council today, some delegations (Spain, Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, Estonia, Poland and Hungary) submitted a joint declaration where they made clear that they wouldn’t accept any agreement which proposes a lower cap for conventional biofuels than the one of 7% included in the deal adopted today. Although I reiterate that a cap is not a good way to move from high-ILUC to low-ILUC biofuels, this is a positive development which makes me understand that Member States are increasingly aware that the 7% cap is really the red line and that a certain level of predictability should be guaranteed for industry’s investments.

All the delegations which took the floor at this morning Council expressed their support for what they consider a reasonable and balanced compromise (only Belgium and Portugal couldn’t accept the deal), but the signatories of the declaration on the 7% cap reiterated that this element should be kept during negotiations with the Parliament and additionally, Spain and Slovakia made clear that also the non-binding nature of the sub-target for advanced biofuels is not negotiable.

Under these circumstances, the next Presidency (Italian) will have the very difficult task of reaching a compromise with the Parliament knowing already that the two key elements on the table are almost impossible to change.  

Yesterday I thought: if the 7% cap is not negotiable, what will the key element of the negotiation be? Probably the sub-target for advanced biofuels, but we are all aware on how difficult it was to accept such a low sub-target at 0.5% and now we know that some Member States consider this element non-negotiable as well. Can we realistically expect a compromise to be built on this basis?

With these open questions in mind, let the second reading start!

I look forward to the appointment of the next Rapporteur for the file in the European Parliament – considering that Ms Lepage was not re-elected at the last EU elections – and the beginning of trilateral negotiations. It remains to be seen which group will have the rapporteurship and what will be the overall political balance in the ENVI Committee.

But to know more about all this we’ll have to wait the end of June when the Committees will be formed and later in July when pending reports will be assigned by the groups’ coordinators.

One sure thing will be the time limitations foreseen for the second reading. In fact, the Parliament will have 3 months to adopt, reject or propose amendments to the Council’s position and the Council will have 3 months too to accept or reject the amendments. This means that in the more positive scenario there will be a final decision in October and in the worst case in January 2015. 

EU Member States miss another opportunity to lead on advanced biofuels

By Géraldine Kutas posted May 28, 2014
After the stalemate at the December Council where a blocking minority of Member States prevented the adoption of a Council common position on ILUC, Member States’ Permanent Representatives finally agreed today on a compromise text proposed by the Greek Presidency after two Ad Hoc Working Party meetings took place in April and May. The Council position will still need to be officially endorsed by EU Energy Ministers on 13 June.

After the stalemate at the December Council where a blocking minority of Member States prevented the adoption of a Council common position on ILUC, Member States’ Permanent Representatives finally agreed today on a compromise text proposed by the Greek Presidency after two Ad Hoc Working Party meetings took place in April and May. The compromise text was discussed already last week by the COREPER but there were still some concerns on the legal nature of the advanced biofuels targets and the text could not be agreed. The Council position will still need to be officially endorsed by EU Energy Ministers on 13 June.

The compromise text – which didn’t really introduce any ground breaking changes compared to the text proposed by the Lithuanians in December 2013 – proposes a non-binding 0.5% reference number for the use of advanced biofuels (with plenty of options for Member States to actually adopt an even lower target) and keeps a cap for conventional biofuels at 7%.

In the spirit of traditional European compromises, this low number bridges the gap between the more ambitious Member States wishing to develop advanced biofuels and those who don’t want to be bound by a commitment. Bottom line for the biofuel sector is that the compromise doesn’t offer any incentives to invest in second and third generation biofuels. Worse still, in its attempt to square the circle on the topic the Council is even likely to block any substantial investments.   

Developing advanced biofuels requires considerable R&D efforts and their market uptake is necessarily slow before they reach commercial scale. Greater clarity on the policy environment is an essential parameter for such investments to take place. It is no wonder why “the need for regulatory certainty” have become such buzzwords in Brussels in the past few years.

I repeat: biofuels, despite all the discussion on ILUC, currently represent the only economically viable way to decarbonise transport, provided that the EU manages to find a way to guarantee they are produced in a sustainable way.

Despite this, EU decision-makers continue to overlook the economic parameters within which the biofuels industry operates. First of all, there is no legislative clarity and there will not be any until the whole legislative process is finalised, which isn’t likely to happen before 2015. Second, the current measures on the table would harm the conventional biofuels industry even though it is precisely from this part of the industry that investments in more sustainable production are likely to come from. Third, the EU is not providing any truly interesting incentive for the development of advanced biofuels. On which premises is the biofuels industry supposed to invest in more sustainable production solutions?

Outside Europe, the Brazilian Sugarcane Ethanol (BSCE) industry demonstrates that conventional biofuels can be produced sustainably, alongside advanced biofuels. UNICA member companies produce second generation biofuels from waste and residues (i.e. bagasse and straw) as well as bio-electricity (by 2020 bioelectricity produced from BSCE can cover 18% of Brazil’s electricity needs).

As a matter of fact, by 2015 Brazil will have four commercial plants producing cellulosic ethanol (GranBio, Raizen, Odebrecht Agroindustrial e Petrobras) with a production for the first year foreseen at 168 million liters according to BNDES. The EU would be an interesting market for Brazil, if only the legislative framework was a bit clearer.

But the game isn’t over yet. The second reading in the European Parliament is just around the corner. One can only hope that the new MEPs adopt a more balanced approach to the file once they reopen it in the second half of the year. 

EU political groups are apathetic on transport issues

By Géraldine Kutas posted May 08, 2014
Having looked at the recently published manifestos of the European political groups, I realized surprisingly that the main groups, EPP and PES, do not even mention transport issues in their priorities for the next five years. Isn’t it odd?

Having looked at the recently published manifestos of the European political groups, I realized surprisingly that the main groups, EPP and PES, do not even mention transport issues in their priorities for the next five years.

Isn’t it odd? Transport is still one of the main sources of emissions in Europe, and in the world really. According to the European Commission, transport is the only sector where GHG emissions are still rising, and yet this seems not to be a major concern for the European political groups. Only the Greens and the Liberals mention transport and only the Greens have priorities on greener and sustainable transport.

To be honest, this doesn’t appear to be in the top-10 issues for the European Commission either, which in January proposed to remove transport specific targets from the 2030 Policy Framework. And, now that I think about it, only very few Member States raised concerns over the lack of transport targets and the proposed end of the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) during the Energy and Environment Council meetings in March.

In my blog on “Full U-Turn on Decarbonizing European Transport”, ahead of the publication of the 2030 Package, I ironically said that it is good to know that the Commission thinks we can stop worrying about carbon emission in transport. Clearly, this isn’t true and the scientific body of the Commission, the JRC, just released a study which concludes that in every scenario considered the existing targets for 2020 (10% RED and 6% FQD) cannot be sustainably met without blending in more advanced biofuels, assuming they are available.

If the solution doesn’t come from the energy policy, it will come from the transport side, I thought! Maybe the Commission is going to issue another Communication on Transport – equivalent to the 2030 Climate and Energy Package – revamping the objective of the White Paper of 2011, or assessing the results achieved so far and raising awareness of what still needs to be done in the road to 2050. However, the White Paper was published only 3 years ago and I learned that a mid-term review will most likely only happen between 2015 and 2016. The highest levels of DG MOVE are not even thinking about a new White Paper yet.

Well, I guess the uncertainty over the biofuels policy cannot be cleared from the transport side either!

Meanwhile, biofuels still remain the most promising way to reduce transport emissions in the short and medium term. However, the ILUC discussion stopped in the last couple of years the developments (and the investments) of the biofuel industry and so far the EU hasn’t managed to provide legal certainty on how sustainable biofuels should be counted against the 2020 targets. Not only did a legal certainty not come from the energy policy, but the proposal put on the table in 2012 by DG CLIMA and DG Energy even risked (and still does) damaging also those sustainable biofuels with a very low-ILUC impact, only because they are food-based, such as Brazilian sugarcane ethanol.

As pointed out several times in my blogs, the Commission should work on a more balanced approach to the biofuels policy and the targets for sustainable transport should not be taken out from of the picture. For the first time, the candidates for the Commission Presidency from the main pan-European parties are debating publically on their priorities ahead of the elections, as a result of the changes introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, and this could have had the potential of raising the awareness of a wider audience than the usual ‘Brussels bubble’ on topics such as sustainable transport and biofuels. However, the candidates for the next Parliament – which is usually the institution that most promotes high standards of sustainability – missed the opportunity to be carriers of sustainable transport ideas and makes me wonder what will be the level of interest on these issues in the next 5 years. 

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

COP 23 – We are here!

• 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.

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