Making the right choices now


As I mentioned in the first blog of the year, 2016 is the ‘year of implementation’. The year we will have to put together the measures needed not only to achieve the 2030 Framework targets and Energy Union goals, but also the COP21 Agreement. Certainly a Herculean task for all parties involved! I wanted to reflect a bit more on this…

This means producing lots of papers, spending hundreds of hours thinking about what we have done right or wrong so far and – ultimately – finding a compromise that benefits everyone. Not just the EU institutions, but also consumers and the climate. COP21 gave a long-term general direction to everyone: we are officially transitioning towards a low-carbon future and need to phase out fossil fuels. How we will get there is the real question we have to address now.

Commissioner Cañete recently said at an event in Brussels that we have to admit the mistakes of the past and not be afraid of learning from them. I think everyone can agree to that statement. From energy efficiency to renewable, including bioenergy, the Commission is giving everyone the opportunity to contribute to a broad range of issues on which legislative proposals are expected. We have a number of things to say and questions to ask.

On the planned review of the Renewable Energy Directive for example, we were disappointed to see that no target was considered for renewables in transport. With liquid fuels retaining a crushing majority of the market share until 2030 and even beyond, the Commission needs to promote sustainable biofuels such as sugarcane ethanol to make sure transport can also contribute to reaching the overall 27% target.

Take also the Effort-Sharing Decision, which is about how Member States will reduce emissions in sectors which are not covered by the EU ETS (heating, transport, agriculture). The transport sector is likely to be drawn upon heavily given its potential for lower emissions. This is where higher ethanol blends can help by providing a relatively cheap and easy alternative. By increasing the share of ethanol in the fuels available at the pump (such as E20, E85, etc.), you can achieve significant GHG emission reductions immediately, without having to wait for people to embrace electric cars!

This is the sort of simple yet effective measures which seem to be overlooked at this stage. The communication on the decarbonisation of transport, expected in Q3 of this year, cannot ignore ethanol’s potential if it is to really mean something. Electrification will only get you so far; ethanol can help us take that extra step and tackle emissions in the remaining 90-something percent of liquid fuels on the market.

And that’s if we only look at CO₂ emissions. Sugarcane ethanol fits well in the circular economy agenda – residues from the production of sugarcane are also used to produce electricity.

Our level of ambition requires that we use the potential of all energy sources which are ready to contribute. I already said what I think about the RED review, I will elaborate more on the other initiatives as soon as there is more clarity on where the Commission is heading. In addition, I’m very curious to see what will come out from the consultation on bioenergy which was launched last week and to which UNICA is planning to respond.

One thing is certain: there won’t be a silver bullet for reducing emissions from transport, only a pragmatic approach will succeed. If the Commission is serious about learning from past mistakes in 2016, it should start making the right choices now.

Géraldine Kutas

Géraldine Kutas

A seasoned professional specializing in international trade policy, Géraldine Kutas leverages over a decade of experience to strengthen UNICA’s activities across the European Union, the United States and Asia. She has a deep expertise in biofuels and agricultural policies, coupled with extensive exposure to multilateral and regional trade negotiations in agriculture. Ms. Kutas is the author and co-author of several international publications on these topics.

Before joining UNICA, she was a researcher and a professor at the Groupe d’Economie Mondiale at Sciences Po(GEM), Paris, and coordinator of the European Biofuels Policy research programme (EBP). Ms. Kutas has also worked as a consultant at the Inter-American Bank of Development and for agro-business firms.

Ms. Kutas has a Ph.D. in International Economics from the Institut d’Etudes Poliques de Paris and a Master degree in Latin American Studies from Georgetown University, Washington DC.