If Europe wants to get anywhere close to hitting its target of a 40% Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reduction by 2030, it will need to tackle transport emissions, which account for about 25% of total EU GHG emissions. To further complicate the issue, road transport is set to grow 30% by 2030. We need available solutions that are deployable now if we are to mitigate global warming. Sustainable biofuels are one of the few available solutions that can help today to reduce carbon emissions in transport. In Brazil for example, the use of bioethanol led to a decrease of 370m tonnes in carbon emissions in just 13 years, which is more than Spain emitted in 2015. The average life span of a car is 10 years and the existing fleet runs primarily on fossil fuel. In fact, only 2.8% of the existing EU fleet is comprised of alternative energy vehicles. This means that in the short and possibly mid-term, introducing a higher ethanol blend is one of the only realistic options to lower GHG emissions in transport. Sustainable sugarcane ethanol results in at least 70% fewer GHG emissions than petrol, and is available now!

Despite these facts, the Environment Committee in the European Parliament risks torpedoing this solution by confirming the phase out of crop-based biofuels. This would not only kill this sector in Europe but also any prospect of producing advanced biofuels, which often depends on the same companies and feedstocks for production. Not to mention, of course, any real shot at decarbonizing the transport sector in the short-term. This extreme policy change, only two years after a framework for biofuels was agreed upon and before the effect of the policy can be properly assessed, will discourage investment in the EU. The key arguments for this policy change, namely Indirect Land-Use Change (ILUC) and concerns that biofuels lead to higher food prices are based on non-verifiable assumptions that should not form the basis for the phase out of a whole industry. Not all first generation biofuels are created equal and sugarcane ethanol is one of the most sustainable biofuels available.

In order to ensure that the EU can make a real contribution to the decarbonisation of transport, the Environment Committee should:

– Set a renewables target in transport to at least 20%;
– Keep the current cap of 7% for highly sustainable biofuels, which is essential to the decarbonisation of European transportation;
– Evaluate first-generation biofuels based on their GHG savings and sustainability criteria;
– Not include ILUC estimates when calculating the GHG emission savings of crop-based biofuels, as long as a predictable methodology based on verified data and sound review process is in place.

Climate change does not wait for the roll out of new technologies – we need to use every tool that is at our disposal today.

Géraldine Kutas
Géraldine Kutas

A seasoned professional specializing in international trade policy, Géraldine Kutas leverages over a decade of experience to strengthen UNICA’s activities across the European Union, the United States and Asia. She has a deep expertise in biofuels and agricultural policies, coupled with extensive exposure to multilateral and regional trade negotiations in agriculture. Ms. Kutas is the author and co-author of several international publications on these topics.

Before joining UNICA, she was a researcher and a professor at the Groupe d’Economie Mondiale at Sciences Po(GEM), Paris, and coordinator of the European Biofuels Policy research programme (EBP). Ms. Kutas has also worked as a consultant at the Inter-American Bank of Development and for agro-business firms.

Ms. Kutas has a Ph.D. in International Economics from the Institut d’Etudes Poliques de Paris and a Master degree in Latin American Studies from Georgetown University, Washington DC.