The Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee of the European Parliament has today voted to reduce the amount of transport fuel derived from food-based renewable sources in the EU. MEPs voted in favour of draft legislative measures which propose to:
  • limit to 5.5% the use of food-based biofuels counting towards the 10% target for renewable energy use in transport, set in the Renewable Energy Directive

  • set a target of 2% for transport energy derived from advanced biofuels with no or low indirect land use change (ILUC) emissions, rather than from biofuels made from food crops.

  • include ILUC factors in accounting for greenhouse gas emissions arising from changing patterns of land use owing to the cultivation of crops for biofuels.

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics welcomes the outcome of today’s vote, which comes more than two years after the Council published its report Biofuels: ethical issues. The report recommended that biofuels policies should take into account the possible greenhouse gas emission savings over the whole production lifecycle of the biofuels, but noted the complexities associated with calculating and determining ILUC factors. It also recommended that policy makers should incentivise research and development of new biofuels technologies that need less land and other resources.

The European Commission previously established voluntary sustainability criteria for biofuels. However the Council would like to see mandatory certification of biofuels that includes social as well as environmental sustainability criteria and greenhouse gas emissions savings. The social criteria that the Council would like to see incorporated into biofuels are:
  • Biofuels development should not be at the expense of people's essential rights (including access to sufficient food and water, health rights, work rights and land entitlements).

  • Biofuels should develop in accordance with trade principles that are fair and recognise the rights of people to just reward (including labour rights and intellectual property rights).

Director of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, Hugh Whittall, said:

“We concluded in 2011 that current policies with crude targets for biofuels are encouraging damaging and unsustainable practices. Incentives for newer types of biofuels that don’t use up valuable land and can be made from waste materials are therefore to be welcomed. Whilst the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is rightly a priority, we think more attention must be given to the wider consequences of biofuels.

We would like to see the EU develop an ethical standard for biofuels accompanied by a mandatory certification scheme. Alongside environmental sustainability criteria, we think the standard should include social criteria such as protection of human rights, and adherence to fair trade principles.”


European Parliament press release

EU Renewable Energy Directive

Compromise and Consolidated Amendments 1-11

Nuffield Council on Bioethics report Biofuels: ethical issues