EU biofuels sustainability criteria could be toughened


European legislation could rule that biofuels must produce savings in greenhouse gas emissions of more than 35% over fossil fuels, according to a proposal contained in an interim report from a European Union (EU) working group.

A figure of 50% from 2015 was inserted for discussion, but is not a final figure, said Slovenia, which set up the ad hoc group under its six-month presidency of the EU. "The member states are quite divided on this" - a presidency spokesperson said. For the European Parliament, biofuel substainability criteria are essential and various EU member states have called for tougher criteria.

If the working group fails to reach agreement on sustainability by the time it is scheduled to present its final report on 7 May, the EU's Coreper system of permanent representatives will kick-in to try to reach agreement among member state environment ministers.

The working group is trying to reconcile the well-advanced draft fuel quality directive - which covers biofuels - and the draft renewable energy directive, which includes a target of biofuels making up 10% of transportation fuels in the EU by 2020.

The fuel quality directive is expected to be passed soon, well before the expected passing of the renewables directive. "We are working towards a reading agreement in June" - said the spokesperson. "We wanted to push this directive as soon as possible."

The presidency set up the working group because of unhappiness in the EU at the absence of any sustainability criteria in the fuel quality directive. It said - "We need to have coherence in the criteria." The working group has no mandate to reconsider the 10% biofuels target set by the European Commission.

Although there is interim agreement on the emissions-saving target, this is likely to be revisited when discussion turns to the formula to be used for calculating the emissions associated with biofuels production and use.

The group has yet to discuss social and environmental issues, said the presidency - "There are various ideas."