By Sini Eräjää, EU bioenergy policy officer at BirdLife Europe & Central Asia.
On Monday 27 February European Energy Ministers gather for the first time in Brussels to discuss and exchange views on the Clean Energy Package proposal of the Commission, which includes various proposals on how to make an energy transition in Europe happen. Policies to promote renewable energy are part of this package and their provisions on the sustainability of bioenergy was one of their most debated parts of it in the European Commission.
Will ministers take a critical look at whether the proposals will actually ensure that bioenergy supported is sustainable and delivers GHG emission savings? Or are they just settling to give a green label to everything ‘bio’?
Dozen civil society groups, from Portugal to the Netherlands, from Poland to the UK and all the way to the US have written to their ministers asking them to ensure that the EU adopts efficient policies to limit the use biomass for energy only to truly sustainable, waste and residue based sources.
Groups across Europe have been deeply disappointed to see that the European Commission’s policy proposals fail to introduce adequate and effective sustainability safeguards and limits to the use of harmful biofuels, biogas and biomass. This is particularly worrisome as at the same time the Commission has proposed new targets for renewable energy in heating and cooling, and strong targets for ‘advanced biofuels’ in transport.
Instead, these groups are calling the Ministers to:
- Ensure that the commitment to cut public support for first generation biofuels post 2020 is maintained and that land based biofuels (and other bioenergy grown on agricultural land) is phased out all the way to zero by 2030 at the latest.
- Strengthen the provisions to end public support for highly inefficient electricity-only bioenergy, which is a welcome and an urgently needed way to limit the fastest growing demand of biomass.
- Revise the Annex 9 of the Renewable Energy Directive to include only truly sustainable waste and residue feedstocks that effectively reduce GHG emissions. As a priority, energy crops, material quality woody biomass, molasses and tall oil should be removed from the list, as they are neither wastes or residues, but products or by-products. Policy-makers need to ensure that proposed targets are in line with sustainable levels of availability.
- Exclude or cap the most harmful sources of bioenergy from the renewable energy targets such as roundwood usable for pulp or timber products, stumps and land consuming crops and clearly recognise their negative climate impacts.
Ignoring existing evidence and new evidence flooding in on the negative climate and environmental impacts of unsustainable bioenergy and spending public money on greenwashed climate measures won’t take European governments very far. It’s rather likely to put the EU on track for another policy swindle full of insecurity and unclarity, as has been experienced with first generation biofuels.
Now, that’s not the way we want to go, is it?