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NGO's and biofuel advocacy groups agree – EU Energy ministers take a wrong turn in transport decarbonisation drive

The agreement by EU energy ministers on December 18 to roll back ambitions for renewable energy use in transport has left hardline environmental NGO's and biofuel advocacy groups agreeing on one thing – the new Council proposal is a turn in the wrong direction in the fight against climate change. The view on the which is the right direction remains diametrically opposed.

Dried distiller’s grains, an important animal feed co-product of corn ethanol production.

This is shameful. A week ago at the Macron Summit, EU governments were declaring the importance of action on climate change. Yet today, they washed their hands of any responsibility for taking that action forward! They’ve just voted for a slow-down in renewable energy, and for lots more trees and food to be burnt for energy, said Imke Lübbeke, Head of Climate and Energy at WWF European Policy Office.

Amongst other things ministers agreed to a 27 percent renewables target by 2030 and the new Council proposal allows Member States to reduce their targets for renewable energy in transport if they lower the cap on crop-based biofuels below the previously agreed 7 percent.

According to the European Renewable Ethanol Association (ePURE), coupled with the use of artificial multipliers for other renewable energy sources, this would have a double-barrelled effect leaving more room in the EU’s post-2020 transport energy mix for fossil fuel and of harming the development of sustainable domestically produced biofuels like renewable ethanol.

Now more than ever, Europe needs to foster renewable energy uptake in transport if it wants to meet its climate goals and achieve its ambition of at least 27 percent renewable share in its energy mix. Maintaining the 7 percent cap for crop-based biofuels – including renewable European ethanol, which delivers significant GHG reductions – in a firm obligation is essential. The EU needs to agree a clear way forward for its biofuels policy after years of policy uncertainty. Only a stable policy framework can restore investors’ confidence and allow existing biofuels operations to run. As it stands now, the European Commission, Parliament and Council are all sending mixed messages, with fossil fuels as the only clear winner, said Emmanuel Desplechin, Secretary General of ePURE.

Anti-poverty organisation Oxfam and green group Transport & Environment (T&E) “deplored” the biofuel policy claiming that would only “benefit the biofuels industry and contribute to hunger and environmental damage”.

European governments are giving free rein to a policy that only benefits biofuel corporations and that rides roughshod over people’s human rights and livelihoods. Despite burning food for fuel meaning taking it from the poorest and most vulnerable to food price shocks, the EU seems set on driving ahead with their destructive policy, said Marc-Olivier Herman, Oxfam’s EU economic justice policy lead.

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