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EU Parliament debate debunks misconceptions on biodiesel carbon savings and benefits

Ahead of key votes on the post-2020 EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) in the Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE), Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) and Transport and Tourism (TRAN) Committees of the European Parliament (EP), European Biodiesel Chain held a debate October 4 in Strasbourg aimed at countering misperceptions on biofuels with latest scientific findings on the positive role of biodiesel production in decarbonising transport and in agricultural sustainability.

Rapeseed is an oilseed widely grown as a rotational crop in Europe and North America.

Hosted by European People’s Party (EPP) MEP’s Marijana Petir, Seán Kelly and Massimiliano Salini and organised by the European Biodiesel Chain, an umbrella advocacy network consisting of the European Oilseed Alliance (EOA), European Biodiesel Board (EBB) and European Vegetable Oil and Proteinmeal Industry Association (FEDIOL), the “EU Biodiesel in the RED II: Decarbonising Transport While Ensuring Agricultural Sustainability” debate was held at the EU Parliament in Strasbourg, France.

Opening the event, the RED II AGRI Rapporteur MEP Marijana Petir described the hard work done by the Agricultural Committee in achieving a compromise on the role of conventional biofuels, saying that “the recent vote in the AGRI Committee is a powerful signal to steer discussions within the ENVI Committee, in a way that recognizes the important role of sustainable biofuels for rural development and GHG emissions reduction in the EU.”

It is vital that we ensure regulatory certainty as many of those who currently produce 1st generation biofuels  are the same ones that we are counting on to invest in the development of advanced biofuels. As a result, reducing the share of conventional biofuels would send the wrong signal to investors and be detrimental to the development of advanced biofuels, said MEP Seán Kelly, Shadow Rapporteur in the ITRE Committee.

Echoing his colleague, MEP Massimiliano Salini, TRAN Committee Shadow Rapporteur, commented on the need to grant stability for the investors who decided to take consistent risks based on EU Commission’s guidelines.

The cap on crop-based biofuels introduced in the current Renewable Energy Directive was meant to finally solve the debate on land use change. Yet, further changes in EU legislation brought instability and harmed both fuel suppliers and European farmers, for whom biofuels represent a fundamental outlet, said Salini.

Traceability welcomed

To further put aside any concerns on alleged land use change (ILUC), the need for a traceability system that ensures sustainability of all biofuels was stressed, and efforts by the industry to put in place such a system were unilaterally welcomed.

Keynote speaker Professor Wally Tyner from Purdue University, US, outlined the differences between two models assessing induced biofuels’ GHG emissions from land use change – GLOBIOM, used in debates on RED II, and GTAP-BIO, used by the US California Air Resources Board (CARB).

In my experience, it is better to have an open model due to a broad stakeholder input. While GTAP is peer-reviewed, transparent and subject to stakeholder examination, GLOBIOM is not open for scrutiny, Tyner said.

In investigating the important differences between these two models, Professor Tyner determined the causes for many of these differences, and concluded that “with improved assumptions, GLOBIOM ILUC figures for oilseed crops would substantially decrease.”

Alongside the EP work, EU Member States are also looking into a revised RED II draft by the Council Presidency. This draft confirms an overall will to maintain the 7 percent cap and include an optional incorporation obligation on first-generation biofuels.

While this is a positive development, it is also crucial to tackling specifically the transport sector by setting a renewables’ incorporation obligation of at least 15 percent by 2030. Without it, the current European market for biofuels will be fragmented after 2020 and will solely rely on national initiatives and policies.

It is crucial to ensure policy continuity after 2020 by not lowering the contribution of conventional biofuels. The current renewables target in transport should be extended beyond 2020 and the 7 percent maximum contribution of biofuels from arable crops to the share of renewables in transport should not be reduced, concluded Henri Rieux, FEDIOL President, speaking on behalf of the European Biodiesel Chain.

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