A compromise deal on the contribution of biofuels to the EU's overall renewable energy consumption target, which foresees sourcing 20% of the bloc's energy needs from renewables by 2020, was reached late in the night of 3 December during behind-closed-doors negotiations between representatives of the three main EU institutions.
The final compromise obliges the bloc to ensure that biofuels offer at least 35% carbon emission savings compared to fossil fuels when the law enters into force – a figure that would rise to 45% by 2013 and 50% by 2017. As of 2017, the target will be raised to 60%. Earlier, the Parliament had asked for an immediate 45% target to be established (EurActiv 12/09/08).
Sub-targets for first and second-generation biofuels, demanded by MEPs but stongly opposed by member states, were dropped. Instead, the overall 10% biofuels target now applies not only to biofuels, but also to all renewable energy used in transport, such as electric vehicles powered by renewable sources, which will now contribute to achieving the target.
Until the very end, the European Parliament and EU countries remained split over the so-called biofuels sustainability criteria, and in particular whether to include the impact of so-called 'indirect land use' in the formula to calculate biofuels' overall CO2 performance. Such indirect factors include increased CO2 emissions caused by deforestation and higher food prices as a result of shifting land from food to biofuel production.
In a compromise deal, a legally-binding reference to indirect land use was dropped. Instead, the European Commission was asked to come forward with proposals to limit indirect land use caused by the swtich to biofuel production.