Copenhagen, Denmark – The European Environmental Agency (EEA) Scientific Committee has publicly recommended a new scientific study on the environmental risks and benefits of biofuels, and says that the European Union (EU) target to increase biofuels to 10 per cent by 2020 should be suspended.
The committee is composed of 20 independent scientists from 15 EEA member countries, covering a variety of environmental fields relevant for the Agency’s areas of activity.
The report says that greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector are rising steadily, due to the continuing growth of transport volume, and that policies and measures so far have not been sufficient to stop further emission growth. Mandatory biofuel quotas were introduced with the expectation that transport emissions would be reduced and stabilized in the medium term, and in 2003, the Biofuels Directive set an objective of replacing 2 per cent of the vehicle fuel supply with biofuel by 2005, and 5.75 per cent by 2010. The 2005 target was not met and the Committee said it is unlikely the 2010 target will be reached, but in 2007, the EU target for biofuels was increased to 10 per cent by 2020, under the conditions of production being sustainable and second-generation technologies being commercially available.
The pace of biofuel production in the EU and of biofuel imports from third countries is increasing, which led the Scientific Committee to issue its warnings. It said that biofuel production based on first-generation technologies does not optimally use biomass resources with regard to fossil energy saving and greenhouse gas reduction; that biomass utilization uses valuable and finite resources; that the amount of available arable land for bioenergy production cannot meet the 10 per cent target; and that the 10 per cent target will require additional biofuel imports from countries where sustainable production is difficult to achieve and monitor. The Committee said that the accelerated destruction of rain forests due to increasing biofuel production can already be witnessed in some developing countries.
The Committee has recommended suspending the 10 per cent goal, carrying out a new study, and setting a new and more moderate long-term target if sustainability cannot be guaranteed.