EU Commission sets up system for certifying sustainable biofuels

10 June 2010 19:51  [Source: ICIS news]

TORONTO (ICIS news)--The EU Commission has adopted a system with criteria for certifying biofuels - including those imported into the EU, it said on Thursday.

Under the system, the commission laid down sustainability criteria for biofuels that would need to be met by “voluntary schemes” - run by governments, industry or NGOs - to certify biofuel sustainability, it said.

Commentators said that certification was primarily aimed at imports. The EU imports a good part of its biofuels requirements, and imports have been forecast to increase in coming years.

The commission said the certification schemes would require independent auditors to check the whole production chain, from the farmer and the mill, via the trader, to the fuel supplier who delivers petrol (gasoline) or diesel to the filling station.

The rules for certification schemes were part of a set of guidelines explaining how the EU”s “Renewable Energy Directive,” coming into effect in December 2010, should be implemented, it said.

EU energy commissioner Gunther Oettinger 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 EU.”

“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," he said.

The Commission reiterated that EU member states had to meet binding, national targets for renewable energy, and that only those biofuels with high greenhouse gas savings counted for the national targets.

Biofuels had to deliver greenhouse gas savings of at least 35% compared with fossil fuels, rising to 50% in 2017 and to 60%, for biofuels from new plants, in 2018, it said.

Details on the criteria are available in a special section – “Biofuels: Sustainability Criteria” - on the EU Commission’s website.

Germany’s biofuels industry broadly welcomed the EU’s ruling.

The measures should ensure that all EU countries faced the same certification requirements for biofuels, said Berlin-based biofuels trade group Verband der Deutschen Biokraftstoffindustrie (VDB).

All German biofuels producers would get certification, it added. Bioethanol and biofuel that was not certified would not count towards quotas and would not qualify for tax breaks, it added.

Another group, Bundesverband der deutschen Bioethanolwirtschaft (BDB), which represents German ethanol producers, also welcomed the measure.

It said that Germany’s ethanol production was already in compliance with the EU sustainability criteria. As such, German producers were facing competitive disadvantages if implementation of the Renewable Energy Directive was delayed, it said.

However, Greenpeace's German affiliate said the Commission’s criteria did not go far enough to save rain forests in developing countries. Also, the 35% greenhouse gas savings target through 2017 was too low, the group said.

Bas Eickhout, a member of the Green Party in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, said the commission's sustainability criteria were “riddled with loophole” and would allow climate-damaging fuels to “get the all clear in Europe.”

Check out Doris de Guzman’s Green Chemicals Blog for views on sustainability issues
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By: Stefan Baumgarten
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