Strange bedfellows unite to defend Fuel Quality Directive


Environmental pressure groups and biofuels trade associations have joined forces to call on the European Commission to save the Fuel Quality Directive, as rumours grow that it will be terminated by a passage in the 2030 White Paper. 

The climate and energy package, due for release on 22 January, is not expected to include a revision of the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD), as had been thought likely at one point.

But European Commission sources say that it will instead contain a text which reads that “the Commission does not think it is appropriate to establish new targets for renewable energy or greenhouse gas intensity of fuels used in transport”.

The passage was allegedly inserted with support from the current Commission secretary-general, Catherine Day, thought to be an outspoken opponent of stronger climate targets in the ongoing debate about 2030.

“We undersigned industry and civil society organisations are writing to you to ensure that the Fuel Quality Directive will be maintained in the post-2020 framework,” the protest letter begins.

The current Fuel Quality Directive, which expires in 2020, commits EU states to a 6% reduction of the greenhouse gas intensity of fuels by the decade’s end, with a further 2% reduction to come, through carbon offsetting measures.

Pointedly, it has provided an umbrella for several highly divisive EU debates such as accounting for Indirect Land Use Change that could result from the EU’s biofuels policy, and the greenhouse gas intensity factors which should be attached to fuel from tar sands.

But some of the groups that have fought most bitterly over these issues – such as the European Biodiesel Board, ePure, WWF and Transport and Environment – have united to keep alive hope of a future EU fuels policy, in which their vision prevails.

“The signatories of this letter urge you to maintain FQD as an important tool in the post-2020 decarbonisation framework, produce a proper impact assessment and initiate a public consultation on how this policy should be improved and continued,” their missive reads.

Their letter says that emissions from transport now account for 25% of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions and, by 2020, will be the largest single source of pollution.

Dispensing with the 6% target would thus “undermine EU credibility on climate change,” they argue.

The 1998 Fuel Quality Directive sets EU-wide specifications for petrol, diesel and gas-oil used in cars, trucks and other vehicles in order to protect human health and the environment.

The European Commission is currently drafting implementation measures for the Fuel Quality Directive to establish a methodology for calculating greenhouse gas emissions from fuel.

The directive, adopted to complement the climate and energy package in December 2008, requires suppliers of petrol, diesel and gas oil used in road transport to reduce the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of fuel by 10% by 2020.

  • 22 January: EU climate and energy package to be announced
  • Spring 2014: Fuel Quality Directive revision expected to be announced
  • 2020: Deadline for EU states to cut greenhouse gas intensity of fuels by 6%

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