European Parliament divided on RED II proposal, as Transport committee rejects Eickhout’s plan

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Policymakers in the European Parliament’s Transport Committee (TRAN) have rejected the opinion put forward by Dutch Green MEP Bas Eickhout on the revised Renewable Energy Directive, dubbed RED II.

Due to a lack of agreement on the outcome of the Environment Committee’s (ENVI) proposal on the phase-out of crop-based biofuels, TRAN had opted to vote on the “Original text based on Rule 174 (3)”, de facto referring to the text initially proposed by the European Commission. However, all in all, TRAN rejected the overall opinion with 30 MEPs voting against (and only 11 endorsing it).

Speaking on behalf of the eight associations representing the EU Biofuel Chain, Copa and Cogeca Secretary-General Pekka Pesonen said: “The EU Biofuels Chain could not welcome TRAN’s endorsement of the Commission’s original proposal – entailing a phase-out of the use of biofuels by 2030 – since that would seriously undermine the EU’s climate and sustainability objectives.

“The rejection of the overall report, however, provides a strong political signal that the biofuels issue is complex, and that finding a common view among the different parliamentary committees, and at plenary level, will be extremely challenging.”

According to the EU Biofuels Chain, the outcome of the TRAN opinion will not be considered by ENVI, which has exclusive competence on the sustainability criteria and treatment of conventional biofuels.

Dedicated target

In the run-up to this vote, the EU Biofuels Chain had called upon TRAN to adopt a dedicated target for the use of renewable energy in the transport sector, and called for a halt on the proposed phase-out of crop-based biofuels, which it claims is essential in agricultural sustainability and represent the most cost-effective and readily available solution to decarbonise the transport sector.

In a statement, the EU Biofuels Chain said: “These elements are crucial to create a policy framework which supports all sustainable forms of renewable energy and contributes to the reduction of fossil fuels’ use and protein feed imports.”

The Secretary-General of the European Biodiesel Board Raffaello Garofalo said: “Although TRAN and ENVI share the same rapporteur on RED II, today’s vote is contradictory and reflects the fragile position adopted in the ENVI Committee opinion. It clearly demonstrates the Parliament’s division on the overall file, and now the Parliament’s plenary will have the final word on the direction of the EU biofuels policy.”

Background

The Renewable Energy Directive (RED) establishes an overall policy for the production and promotion of energy from renewable sources in the EU. It requires the EU to fulfil at least 20% of its total energy needs with renewables by 2020 – to be achieved through the attainment of individual national targets.

All EU countries must also ensure that at least 10% of their transport fuels come from renewable sources by 2020.

Last November, the European Commission proposed to phase-out food crop-based biofuels from 2021.  Since introducing this, the plans have been going through amendments via the European Parliament.

In November, the European Commission said to minimise Indirect Land-Use Change (ILUC) impacts, RED II would introduce a cap on the contribution of food-based biofuels towards the EU renewable energy target, starting at 7% in 2021 and going down progressively to 3.8% in 2030. However, this October, a thin majority of MEPs have voted for this cap to be set at 0% after Dutch Green MEP Bas Eickhout proposed capping crop-based biofuels.

MEPs have also voted to ban the use of biodiesel from all vegetable oils by 2030 and of palm oil biodiesel as early as 2021 under the revised RED.

They also voted to boost second-generation biofuels and called for advanced biofuels to represent at least 2.5% of energy consumption in transport by 2020.

Diverse opinions

The lack of a uniform opinion on the amendments on RED II from the European Parliament has caused an air of confusion within the biofuels industry.

In a statement to Biofuels International, Patrick Pitkänen, head of Business Development and Sales at advanced biofuels specialist St1, said: “ENVI committee seems to have been split in their view. We have not yet analysed all the details of the ENVI report from, as it is probably not yet published. However, the preliminary conclusion is that it would decrease the investment security in any biofuels. Without new investments in advanced biofuel, or biofuels in general, any target would become redundant. Provisions referring to vague indirect consequences are unfounded and detrimental to new investments. Also long term credibility is lost, as feedstocks were arbitrary removed from Annex IX Part A, and by allowing removal of feedstocks during the period until 2030.

As well as TRAN, the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI), and ENVI have already provided their opinions on RED II. It is expected that the European Parliament's Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) will provide its opinion on RED II on 28 November.

The next stage will be a European Council meeting on RED II towards the middle of December. The final decision on RED II is expected in early 2018, provided there are no hiccups.

This story was written by Liz Gyekye, editor of Biofuels International.