Local and global consequences of the EU renewable directive for biofuels. Testing the sustainability criteria

04-03-2008 | Publication

The climate has more to gain from converting biomass into electricity, than to use it to replace petrol or diesel. Therefore, proposals to replace current transport fuels by biofuels are not the best investment in sustainability. This is shown in the report “Local and global consequences of the EU renewable directive for biofuels: testing the sustainability criteria”, by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.

Current biofuels do not add to the sustainability of transport

This report assesses the impact of the European Commission's proposal for a new Renewable Directive, focusing on the specific target for the transport sector, which is 10% in 2020. The Commission proposes criteria to guarantee the sustainability of biofuels. In the criteria, only greenhouse gas reductions through the use of biofuels and the biodiversity concerns per consignment are addressed. Other environmental aspects and issues, such as food security, are addressed in reporting obligations. The European target can only be met by producing additional biofuel outside the European Community. On a global scale, scenarios without specific targets for biofuels already show the need for more agricultural land. With a growing demand for biofuels, even more land conversion will occur. TTherefore, it is doubtful whether the global emissions of greenhouse gases will be reduced by the use of biofuels. The impact on biodiversity will be negative in the short term. The report concludes that the European Commission's proposal for a new Renewable Directive does not take away upcoming worries about a negative impact of more biofuels. Although alternatives on the basis of renewable resources are available, the phrasing and definitions in the proposal do not, effectively, encourage other options.