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06/13/2014
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Council position on ILUC finally adopted by EU Energy Ministers

Today, European Energy Ministers finally adopted the Council’s position on ILUC, after EU ambassadors passed the Greek compromise last week. Key elements of the positions are a cap for conventional biofuels at 7% and a non-binding sub-target for advanced biofuels at 0.5% with three grounds for Member States to divert from it.

I have expressed already my disappointment for the lack of ambition showed by Member States. This deal doesn’t lead to a better framework for investments in the biofuels sector, especially in advanced biofuels, and the future discussions with the European Parliament do not let envisage any positive developments.

Ahead of the Council today, some delegations (Spain, Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, Estonia, Poland and Hungary) submitted a joint declaration where they made clear that they wouldn’t accept any agreement which proposes a lower cap for conventional biofuels than the one of 7% included in the deal adopted today. Although I reiterate that a cap is not a good way to move from high-ILUC to low-ILUC biofuels, this is a positive development which makes me understand that Member States are increasingly aware that the 7% cap is really the red line and that a certain level of predictability should be guaranteed for industry’s investments.

All the delegations which took the floor at this morning Council expressed their support for what they consider a reasonable and balanced compromise (only Belgium and Portugal couldn’t accept the deal), but the signatories of the declaration on the 7% cap reiterated that this element should be kept during negotiations with the Parliament and additionally, Spain and Slovakia made clear that also the non-binding nature of the sub-target for advanced biofuels is not negotiable.

Under these circumstances, the next Presidency (Italian) will have the very difficult task of reaching a compromise with the Parliament knowing already that the two key elements on the table are almost impossible to change.

Yesterday I thought: if the 7% cap is not negotiable, what will the key element of the negotiation be? Probably the sub-target for advanced biofuels, but we are all aware on how difficult it was to accept such a low sub-target at 0.5% and now we know that some Member States consider this element non-negotiable as well. Can we realistically expect a compromise to be built on this basis?

With these open questions in mind, let the second reading start!

I look forward to the appointment of the next Rapporteur for the file in the European Parliament – considering that Ms Lepage was not re-elected at the last EU elections – and the beginning of trilateral negotiations. It remains to be seen which group will have the rapporteurship and what will be the overall political balance in the ENVI Committee.

But to know more about all this we’ll have to wait the end of June when the Committees will be formed and later in July when pending reports will be assigned by the groups’ coordinators.

One sure thing will be the time limitations foreseen for the second reading. In fact, the Parliament will have 3 months to adopt, reject or propose amendments to the Council’s position and the Council will have 3 months too to accept or reject the amendments. This means that in the more positive scenario there will be a final decision in October and in the worst case in January 2015.

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.