European Commission sets up system for certifying sustainable biofuels (10/06/2010)

The European Commission decided today to encourage industry, governments and NGOs to set up certification schemes for all types of biofuels, including those imported into the European Union. It laid down what the schemes must do to be recognised by the Commission. This will help implement the EU's requirements that biofuels must deliver substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and should not come from forests, wetlands and nature protection areas. The rules for certification schemes are part of a set of guidelines explaining how the Renewable Energy Directive, coming into effect in December 2010, should be implemented.

Günther Oettinger, European Commissioner responsible for Energy, said: "In the years to come, biofuels are the main alternative to petrol and diesel used in transport, which produces more than 20% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union. We have to ensure that the biofuels used are also sustainable. Our certification scheme is the most stringent in the world and will make sure that our biofuels meet the highest environmental standards. It will have positive effects also on other regions as it covers imported biofuels."

The package adopted consists of two Communications and a Decision which should help businesses and Member States to implement the Renewable Energy Directive. They focus especially on the sustainability criteria for biofuels and what is to be done in order to control that only sustainable biofuels are used.

Sustainable Biofuel Certificates: The Commission encourages industry, governments and NGOs to set up "voluntary schemes" to certify biofuel sustainability – and explains the standards these must meet to gain EU recognition. One of the main criteria is that they have independent auditors which check the whole production chain, from the farmer and the mill, via the trader, to the fuel supplier who delivers petrol or diesel to the filling station. The Communication sets standards requiring this auditing to be reliable and fraud-resistant.

Protecting untouched nature: The Communication explains that biofuels should not be made from raw materials from tropical forests or recently deforested areas, drained peatland, wetland or highly biodiverse areas – and how this should be assessed. It makes it clear that the conversion of a forest to a palm oil plantation would fall foul of the sustainability requirements.

Promote only biofuels with high greenhouse gas savings: The Communication reiterates that Member States have to meet binding, national targets for renewable energy and that only those biofuels with high greenhouse gas savings count for the national targets, explaining also how this is calculated. Biofuels must deliver greenhouse gas savings of at least 35% compared to fossil fuels, rising to 50% in 2017 and to 60%, for biofuels from new plants, in 2018.

Background:

The 2009 Renewable Energy Directive sets an overall EU target of 20% renewable energy in total energy consumption by 2020, translated into binding national targets for Member States. Every Member States has to reach individual national targets for the overall share of renewable energy. In addition, in the transport sector, all Member States have to reach the same target of a 10% share of renewable energy.

Renewables include solid biomass, wind, solar energy and hydro power as well as biofuels. Only biofuels that meet the EU's sustainability requirements can count towards the targets in the Directive.

The following three documents:

• the Communication on voluntary schemes and default values in the EU biofuels and bioliquids sustainability scheme

• the Communication on the practical implementation of the EU biofuels and bioliquids sustainability scheme and on counting rules for biofuels and

• the Decision on guidelines for the calculation of land carbon stocks

can be found on the website:

http://ec.europa.eu/energy/renewables/biofuels/sustainability_criteria_en.htm

Directive 2009/28 of 23 April 2009 on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:32009L0028:EN:NOT

Individual national targets for renewable energy: Annex I, Directive 2009/28 on renewable sources

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:32009L0028:EN:NOT