The European Parliament has resisted pressure from member states to water down the draft law on biofuels after five-hour long negotiations yesterday afternoon (25 March).
A second trilogue meeting between the co-legislators ended without a compromise text on limiting the use of food-based biofuels. The European Parliament’s Rapporteur on Indirect Land-Use Change (ILUC), MEP Nils Torvalds (ALDE) refused the Council’s proposal to make a number of provisions weaker, or optional.
Biofuel is an alternative to fossil fuel that pollutes less. The increased use of biofuels over the years has caused deforestation, high food prices, and increased carbon emissions which harm the environment, the Commission and environmental groups has said.
“Nils Torvalds has so far resisted pressure from the Council to further expand biofuels that everyone knows are harming forests, disrupting food supplies, and worsening climate change,” Robbie Blake, biofuels campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said.
“MEPs and national governments must now put to bed the EU’s biofuels debacle,” said Blake.
The draft law, proposed by the Commission in 2012, is supposed to limit the use of conventional biofuels and contribute to the EU’s transport targets of 10% renewable energy by 2020.
MEPs and EU countries are trying to broker a deal on the biofuels law that will curb those problems.
Yesterday’s negotiations highlighted the divide between the Parliament and the Council.
A number of controversial issues remain on the negotiation table.
Co-legislators disagree on how much biofuel can be derived from food crops. While MEPs ask for a 6% cap, which is backed by green campaigners, the Council is pushing for a 7% cap.
There is also disagreement over the best way of calculating indirect land use change (ILUC) emissions. ILUC is the unintended consequence of releasing more carbon emissions after turning forests into agricultural land in response to the increased global demand for biofuels.
MEPs want these emissions included in the carbon accounting, a method calculating greenhouse gas emissions, in order to identify the most polluting biofuels. This will send a strong market signal to the oil companies to shift away from biofuels with high-ILUC, such as biodiesel. But countries like Poland and France are against that because biofuels with high-ILUC can still get subsidies and financial support and be counted towards renewable targets.
Binding targets on advanced biofuels, derived from biomass other than food crops, is another cause of disagreement. The Council wants an optional target of 0.5%, while the Parliament asks for an obligatory target of 1.5%. MEPs want to hasten the shirft to advanced biofuels becuase they are less polluting.
“It is a shame that the goal of more ambitious and legally binding targets for advanced biofuels is blocked by the Council,” said Jytte Guteland, a Socialist member of the European Parliament’s environment committee.
“In order to stimulate fully renewable advanced technologies for biofuels, and make the transport sector more sustainable, we need technological progress. And nothing will happen if we don’t get targets that are legally binding to member states,” she said.
The Council hoped to strike a compromise yesterday night, but the Parliament decided to stand by its position, according to a source.
It also emerged that the Council is divided over the biofuels law. Nine countries, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, the UK, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Slovenia, are willing to have a more ambitious law. Should they put pressure on other member states, a compromise could be made with the Parliament.
The co-legislators will have a third trilogue meeting on 14 April. If an agreement can’t be made, the lawmakers will form a special conciliation committee to seek a settlement. If that fails, the law will be declared void.