Palm oil ban on the ropes as Commission weighs options

(EurActiv, 19 Nov 2018) Under the EU’s new renewable energy rules, the European Commission has to define criteria that are meant to curb the use of the most climate-damaging biofuels. A new study warns that if handled incorrectly, the use of fuels like palm oil will increase instead of being phased out.

Under the revision of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED II), due to enter into force by the end of the year, renewable energy must fuel at least 14% of transport by 2030, with sustainable biofuels set to play an important role.

Member states can keep using food-based biofuels to meet their transport targets but their contribution will be limited to no more than the amount of biofuels they were using in 2020 – a maximum of 7%.

The rest will need to be met with electricity, green hydrogen or advanced biofuels, which are not made from food crops.

Biofuels judged to be unsustainable will eventually be phased out by 2030, according to the new rules, which received the final green light by the European Parliament last week.

But the food-based biofuel case is not as simple as it sounds, because the Commission is yet to define which crops pose a “high indirect land use change risk” and which only pose a “low risk”. This replaced more explicit language that referred directly to palm oil in the original legislation draft.

Indirect land-use change (ILUC) most commonly applies when agricultural production expands due to increased demand for feedstocks, often exacerbating the impact on the climate that cleaner biofuels are supposed to reduce.

Feedstocks that are a lower risk of causing ILUC will be exempt from the RED II limitation and the Commission is obliged to come out with a delegated act clarifying the issue by February. On Monday (19 November), it hosted a stakeholder event to gather input.

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EurActiv, 19 Nov 2018: Palm oil ban on the ropes as Commission weighs options