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The Commission’s proposal fails to keep in the market sustainable biofuels that truly reduce GHG emissions

BRUSSELS/SÃO PAULO (NOVEMBER 30, 2016)  UNICA, the Brazilian sugarcane industry association, issued the following statement on the proposal for the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources in the period post-2020 published today as part of the Clean Energy for All Package:

“The Commission falls short of making an effective differentiation between types of first generation biofuels and misses the opportunity to promote those which perform best in terms of GHG emission savings. The push for advanced biofuels is welcome and we hope that the industry will be able to deploy them according to the indicated timeline.” said Géraldine Kutas, Head of International Affairs at UNICA.

One of the aims of the Renewable Energy Directive for 2020-2030 should be to increase the share of renewable energy in the transport sector. However, the Commission’s proposal would reduce the share of all conventional generation biofuels to 3.8% in 2030, regardless of investments made and GHG emission savings. Such a policy is doomed to backfire.

First, because it would scale down high performing conventional biofuels, which, according to the best available science, can cut GHG emissions by at least 70% and contribute substantially to transport decarbonization. The investments made on first generation biofuels will cover a substantial part of the costs for the next generation to be developed, through shared supply chains, manufacturing base  and logistics. By cutting down all conventional biofuels without distinction, the Commission is putting into jeopardy its own plan to develop advanced biofuels.

Second, because the proposed phase out will take place at a faster pace than the deployment of advanced biofuels and clean electric vehicles, this may lead to an increased use of fossil fuels in the transport mix. Decreasing the current cap for first generation biofuels at the proposed speed is unrealistic. Mainly because the projected annual uptake of advanced biofuels on a yearly basis does not take into account the rhythm of investment cycles, which are longer than one year, meaning that production is unlikely to increase in the timeframe foreseen.

The Commission’s limited  differentiation between first generation biofuels in the legislative proposal does not go far enough as to promote an ambitious decarbonization policy for transport. Allowing Member States to set different limits for different types of biofuels is very likely to lead to a legislative patchwork across Europe, with a subsequently negative impact on investment and on the homogeneous spread of higher biofuels blends. Moreover, it would still sanction first generation biofuels with high GHG emissions savings with a phase out, only at a different pace.

Our conviction is that policies to decarbonize the transport sector should reward all technologies that lead to cost-effective GHG emission savings. Instead of phasing out all conventional biofuels, the proposed system should incentivize the use of biofuels with higher GHG emissions savings.

Member States and the European Parliament need to be given facts, not fear, in order to make the right decisions to reduce emissions in the EU. Until innovative technologies are commercially available, a number of existing options are ready to take transport decarbonization to the next level; sugarcane ethanol is one of them.


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