New sustainability guidelines for biofuels in Europe do not go far enough to prevent a dramatic increase in deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions. The guidelines and an associated certification scheme only address part of the picture, with indirect land-use change impacts of biofuel production still not properly addressed.
The revised guidelines, being published on June 10 by the European Commission, are problematic because:
- A loophole allowing conversion of rainforest to palm oil plantations has been closed, which is a great achievement. However, the guidelines are still too weak to prevent conversion of some non-pristine forests.
- Emissions from some process plants will remain exempted from the carbon footprint assessment of biofuel until 2013.
- It is uncertain how proposed safeguards for peatland will work and be monitored, despite their critical importance.
In its guidelines, the Commission did not set out to tackle a major problem with biofuels – the indirect land-use change (ILUC) impacts. These are perhaps the most dangerous problem of biofuels and a major concern highlighted by the OECD, UNEP and the European Commission Joint Research Centre. If not properly regulated, ILUC impacts will continue causing major biodiversity loss and more greenhouse gas emissions.
Member states will tell the Commission how they intend to reach renewable targets for transport by the end of the month. If they want to avoid doing more harm than good, they should steer well clear of dirty biofuels. To do so, Greenpeace calls on member states to adopt stringent financial incentive policies to exclude biofuels that do not provide real benefits for emissions reduction and biodiversity conservation. When formulating their national plans before the end of the month, member states should instead prioritise public transport and electric cars over dirty biofuels.
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