07 July 2008 23:55 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (ICIS news)--The UK government will move more slowly towards greater use of biofuels in light of a review of whether they might lead to more greenhouse gases and higher food costs, the government’s transport secretary said on Monday.
The government will consult on slowing down the rate of increase in the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) so that the level of biofuels will increase to 5% by 2013-2014 rather than 2010-2011, said transport secretary Ruth Kelly.
Kelly said in a statement that she agreed with the review’s recommendation that the government should “amend but not abandon its biofuel policy”.
“This government has always been clear that biofuels can only make a useful contribution to mitigating climate change if they are sustainably produced,” Kelly said.
"I agree ... that we should take a precautionary approach over the next few years, until we are clearer about their wider effects on the environment. Our policy should be based on the best possible science and as the evidence evolves, so too should our policy evolve with it."
“In recent months, however, increasing questions have been asked about the more intangible indirect effects of biofuels on food supplies and prices, on deforestation and on their overall impact on greenhouse gas emissions,” Kelly said.
According to the report by Renewable Fuels Agency chairman Ed Gallagher, by 2020 "biofuels have the potential to deliver annual global greenhouse gas savings of approximately 338[m] - 371 million tonnes of carbon dioxide".
However, there is a strong need for further evidence and monitoring to determine the sustainability and wider impacts of biofuels, the report said, and there is a risk that the uncontrolled expansion and use of biofuels could drive unsustainable land use change. In turn this might lead to net increases in greenhouse gas emissions and potentially contribute to rising food prices.
The review also takes aim at the EU target of 10% of transport fuel from renewable sources by 2020.
The “mandatory 10% renewable transport fuel target is not presently justified by the scientific evidence, but that a target of 10% by 2020 could be possible if a number of important conditions are fulfilled,” Kelly said. “These conditions include sufficient controls on land-use change being enforced globally as part of a new climate agreement, and new evidence providing further confidence that the target can be met sustainably. In the meantime, he says that a more appropriate range for the 2020 biofuel target would be around 5 - 8% by energy”.
The government believes the EU target of 10% renewable transport fuels by 2020 can remain an overall objective but subject to clear conditions,” Kelly said, but added the 10% target “must be subject to rigorous review, in the light of the emerging evidence, so that we can make an informed decision at EU level in 2013/14 about whether the target can continue in place”.
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