By Sini Eräjää, EU bioenergy policy officer at BirdLife Europe & Central Asia.
On Monday 23rd the first European Parliament vote will take place on one of the EU’s corner stone policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – the Renewable Energy Directive. As bioenergy is currently the EU’s biggest source of renewable energy, it is crucial to ensure that bioenergy actually and effectively reduces emissions instead of having detrimental environmental impacts.
The current policies have led to growing forest harvesting and burning of trees for energy, which doesn’t deliver real GHG savings – as recently highlighted by 190 scientists. It has also taken land away from food production for biofuel production, with serious impacts on food security and GHG emissions from indirect land use change.
The Parliament already gave in earlier on the LULUCF regulation under pressure from only a couple of EU countries with strong national forest interests,, allowing emissions from growing forest loggings – driven also by bioenergy demand – to disappear and be unaccounted for. Unless these loopholes are patched up with stronger safeguards for bioenergy in the Renewable Energy Directive, the land and forest sector will end up as sectors that undermine the EU’s climate efforts, rather than contribute to them.
Therefore the following key decisions need to be made in the Parliament’s Environmental Committee vote next Monday to ensure that renewable energy and bioenergy really deliver for climate and nature:
- No new targets should be introduced for renewable energy in transport that would increase food and feed crop biofuels: Just like the EU’s current 10% target by 2020 for renewable energy in the transport sector, new generic targets for renewable energy in transport would just drive the use of even more cereals and vegetable oils for energy. The Commission therefore sensibly did not propose to continue such a target but rather proposed separate mandates for better options like electrification of transport and advanced biofuels – and the Parliament should do the same.
- Phase out food and feed crop based biofuels: Even though less than 5% of energy use in transport is from biofuels, this has still had a massive negative impact on land use, land grabs, food prices, carbon emissions etc. across the globe. Food and feed crop biofuels are not the future and should be phased out, sooner rather than later, starting with palm oil and other highest emitting biofuels.
- Support the use of forest residues and waste ONLY for energy and don’t burn whole trees for it: The Commission proposed totally inadequate safeguards for forest biomass that wouldn’t stop any of the bad bioenergy developments taking place already today. Rather than burdensome criteria on forest management, energy policy should ensure smart use of the wood and stop the harvesting of trees directly for energy i.e. only support the use of forest residues and waste.
At stake is nothing less than ensuring actual and genuine GHG emission savings from the EU’s efforts on renewable energy, and the environmental integrity and public face of renewables in general. Today citizens around the globe are raising awareness of the negative impacts that badly designed policies are already having and calling for an end to #BigBadBioenergy. Will parliamentarians listen?
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