Commission backs ‘green’ biofuel schemes
The European Commission has announced that seven schemes will be authorised to verify that biofuel produces greenhouse-gas savings
Günther Oettinger, the European commissioner for energy, said yesterday (19 July) that the EU had set the highest sustainability standards in the world. “The schemes recognised at EU level today are a good example of a transparent and reliable system that ensures that these high standards are met,” he said.
Under the EU’s renewable-energy legislation, 10% of energy used in transport has to come from renewable sources by 2020. To count towards this target, biofuel has to meet sustainability criteria. For example, it cannot come from areas with a high level of biodiversity or from areas that are rich in carbon, such as forests or peatland.
Companies selling biofuel have to show that they meet these criteria through a national system or through a voluntary system approved by the EU.
Oettinger said that the operators of the seven schemes would ensure that all biofuel is accompanied by the correct documentation on sustainability criteria. He said the schemes that had been recognised had demonstrated that they had the staff and the resources to ensure the criteria were being met.
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The seven schemes are: International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC); Bonsucro EU, the Roundtable for Sustainable Soy (RTRS), the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB), Biomass Biofuels Sustainability voluntary scheme (2BSvs), Abengoa RED Bioenergy Sustainability Assurance (RBSA), and the Greenergy Brazilian Bioethanol verification programme.
Three of the schemes have been developed by industry, three involve a range of stakeholders including environmental campaign groups, and one, ISCC, is backed by a national government.
Oettinger denied that there was a conflict of interest in authorising a scheme run by Abengoa, one of the world’s largest bioethanol companies. “This is not a blank cheque,” he said, adding that the scheme would be monitored to ensure that the organisation was fulfilling its obligations. “We have reason for trust, [but] not for blind trust,” he said.
The Commission is currently considering 25 further schemes, and expects to approve a second batch after the summer break.
Oettinger said that the sustainability criteria needed to address the problem of indirect land-use change (ILUC) – where food crops are grown on previously uncultivated land to replace crops grown for biofuel. He said that the Commission would issue a communication on ILUC after the summer, based on the latest scientific advice.
An internal Commission impact assessment on ILUC seen by European Voice recommends setting specific values for different crops to take account of the ILUC effect.
The Commission has not yet decided whether to follow these recommendations, as they would limit the production of biofuel from palm oil, soy and rapeseed.