ePURE: EU taxonomy falls short in treatment of biofuels

By ePURE | April 22, 2021

The European Commission’s political agreement on a Delegated Regulation seeking to define sustainable investments in the EU sends unfortunately mixed signals about the importance of sustainable biofuels such as renewable EU ethanol to climate-change mitigation.

The text and annexes agreed by the Commission on April 21 at least recognize that the manufacture of biofuels for use in transport should no longer be considered as transitional, as it clearly belongs to the activities referred to in the Regulation relating to increasing clean or climate-neutral mobility and producing clean and efficient fuels.

But the Commission also takes the counterproductive step of stating that ‘food and feed crops’ could not be used to make biofuels, despite the obvious and growing need for sustainable biofuels to meet decarbonization targets – and despite the fact that for centuries such crops have been used for multiple purposes. By contrast, the delegated act rightly allows the use of food and feed crops in the manufacture of organic basic chemicals and bioplastics – but offers no justification for the inconsistency of excluding the use of such crops for the production of biofuels.

The Commission’s unfortunate restriction contradicts the hard-won sustainability criteria established in RED II, which defines and supports sustainable biofuels – including crop-based ones, which account for over 64 percent of biofuels use in the EU and 58 percent of the renewable energy in transport alone.

“Once again the EU is trying to redefine what should be considered as sustainable biofuels – even after the RED II process clearly distinguished good and bad biofuels and rendered the old ‘food vs fuel’ debate irrelevant,” said Emmanuel Desplechin, secretary-general of ePURE, the European renewable ethanol association. “By making an unwarranted attack on crop-based biofuels with a reference to ‘food and feed crops’, the Commission is hamstringing its ability to meet Green Deal targets.”

The delegated act offers no justification for disregarding the RED II sustainability criteria, and even ignores the findings of the Commission’s 2020 Renewable Energy Progress Report, which confirmed that these biofuels have significantly contributed to CO₂ emissions reduction in the transport sector in 2018 without causing adverse environmental impacts or higher food prices.