This article is part of our special report COP25: Is transport decarbonisation pragmatic enough?.
The EU should look at how countries across the world promote biofuels in their national policies and, following the announcement of the Green Deal, basically “revisit” the Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) on road transport decarbonisation, a biofuel expert told EURACTIV.com.
“Capping conventional biofuels is not in the right direction […] it would give impetus to the oil sector, which would have a bigger share in the future,” Bharadwaj Kummamuru, executive director of the World Bioenergy Association (WBA), which represents the bioenergy sector globally, said on the sidelines of COP25 in Madrid.
As part of the “Clean Energy for All Europeans” package, EU member states revised the Renewable Energy Directive in an effort to boost the use of renewables and help the bloc meet its obligations under the Paris Agreement.
The EU decided to set a target of having a 14% share of renewables in transport. Conventional biofuels, such as bioethanol or biodiesel, were capped at 7% by 2030, while 3.5% should be reserved for so-called advanced biofuels.
“Our message for EU policymakers is to look at what’s happening in the rest of the world in terms of national policies promoting biofuels. There is no discussion on crop or non-crop based biofuels, food versus fuel debates, these topics are off the table,” Kummamuru said.
Green Deal and RED II
The issue of re-examining the REDII was recently raised by Artur Runge-Metzger, director of the Commission’s Climate Action directorate. “I hear so much criticism around RED II […] I think that probably the Commission will do good to look at it, again, whether this is going to lead to a new proposal, or whatsoever,” he said.
The European Commission unveiled on Wednesday its much-anticipated European Green Deal, outlining a long list of policy initiatives aimed at putting Europe on track to reach net-zero global warming emissions by 2050.
The Green Deal is expected to re-open a number of energy-related policies in order to update them and basically adjust them to the new green long-term objectives.
Regarding transport, the automotive sector is once again in the Commission’s firing line. The current objective is to reach 95gCO2/km by 2021. Now “we need to work towards zero,” sometime in the 2030s, said an EU official, who asked not to be named.
Electric vehicles will be further encouraged with the objective of deploying one million public charging points across Europe by 2025. “Every family in Europe needs to be able to drive their electric car without having to worry about the next charging station,” the official explained.
Dependence on oil
Kummamuru insisted that in the medium to long term, oil is expected to stay the main energy source for transport, although declining to some extent in future years.
“By 2030, we will still have a lot more conventional engines than electric vehicles even though countries across the world have quite ambitious transport electrification targets. But at the same time, in order to meet the demand for these conventional engines by 2030 or even 2050, we will still need a lot of sustainable biofuels,” he said.
He added that these biofuels are already commercially available and have proven to be able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil fuels.
“Bioethanol and biodiesel will still play a big role in decarbonising the transport sector,” he said, adding that biofuels managed to survive the strong criticism as they do not affect only the energy sector but also agriculture and farmers.
According to the NGO Transport and Environment (T&E), the uptake of electric vehicles in Europe is expected to accelerate through the mid-2020s.
“Whilst in 2025, only 10% of the total European new vehicle sales will consist of zero and low emission vehicles (ZLEVs), this number is expected to increase to 25% in 2030 under the baseline case. Within ZLEVs, battery electric vehicles (BEVs) would be the dominant powertrain technology from the early 2020s,” a report reads.
“This would mean that in 2030, 85% of the vehicle stock will still be powered by internal combustion engines (ICE). However, by 2050, electric vehicles are expected to dominate the stock, reducing the proportion of ICE cars to 20%,” T&E added.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]