After a short break occasioned by the European elections in May, it will soon be time for new and returning Members of the European Parliament to embark on second reading discussions on ILUC. Member States adopted their common position on 13 June and, as soon the text is presented to MEPs in Plenary, the second reading phase will start. In this important new step of the process, UNICA would like to send a few words to the members of the recently formed Environment Committee, who will have a special role to play on the dossier in the second half of the year.
Dear Members of the Environment Committee,
As you are aware (or soon will be), the ILUC proposal, described by the Commission as a tool “to limit global land conversion for biofuel production, and raise the climate benefits of biofuels”, has been subject to discussions for already 18 months. The proposal has triggered heated debates and to date the positions of the three institutions still diverge. After a first reading position was adopted in the Parliament last September, Member States’ Energy Ministers reached a common position on 13 June, driven by the Hellenic Presidency. Where have discussions led to? Member States proposed a cap on conventional biofuels at 7% and a non-mandatory sub target for advanced biofuels at 0.5%, while the Parliament favoured a 6% cap on conventional biofuels and a 2.5% sub-target for advanced biofuels in 2020.
As if the gap between Parliament and Council was not clear enough, a group of 8 countries (Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Spain, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia) sent a declaration to the Greek Presidency right before the June Council meeting stressing that the 7% cap was an absolute red line and that any tripartite agreement on a lower cap would not be acceptable.
We were glad to see Member States realise how important it is to provide certainty for investments by keeping a cap at least at 7%. However, we still think the cap is not the best way to tackle the ILUC issue and that a more balanced and nuanced approach is to be found. The Council’s common position will now be subject to your amendments and eventually to tripartite negotiations. You probably remember how tight the vote was last year – the position could only be adopted in plenary by a slim margin of 29 votes, with a majority composed by ALDE, S&D, Greens and GUE/NGL. In this Parliament more than half of members are newly elected and a new majority will need to be formed to reach an agreement in second reading. UNICA counts on the new rapporteur, still to be appointed, to bring negotiations to a close as quickly as possible, in cooperation with the Italian Presidency. If the EU is serious about reducing transport emissions, agreement must be found shortly to provide sustainable biofuels with the certainty they need on EU markets.
From our side, we will use this occasion to reiterate once more that a biofuels policy based on a cap on all conventional biofuels doesn’t provide the necessary instruments to really identify and encourage biofuels that are performing better in terms of CO2 emission reductions. With its black and white approach, the Council’s common position does not acknowledge the sound environmental performance and sustainability of certain conventional biofuels, like Brazilian sugarcane ethanol, and fails to promote their use even when they have superior environmental credentials when all emissions and environmental factors are taken into account.
Of note, a dedicated 7.5% sub-target for renewable energy in European petrol, as adopted by the previous Parliament in September 2013, is essential because it will help the EU to reach more cost-effectively its GHG emission savings target and in a more environmentally responsible manner.
We also strongly support the development of new and innovative biofuels technologies and we suggest a better incentive system than double-counting and a modest 0.5% sub-target. For stimulating the production and consumption of advanced biofuels, we will advocate for a sub-target for advanced biofuels of at least 2% by 2020.
We hope that the result of upcoming negotiations will bring us to a more nuanced outcome for biofuels policy and we hope that MEPs will bring to the debate on the 2030 framework the important topic of a specific target for renewables in transport post-2020, as we believe it would trigger innovation in the advanced biofuels sector.
Head of International Affairs, UNICA