MEPS vote to end use of soy and palm oil as EU biofuel feedstocks

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/JJ Gouin
© GettyImages/JJ Gouin

Related tags: FEDIOL, Soy, Palm oil, greenhouse gas emissions, ILUC

EU vegetable oil and protein meal association, FEDIOL, has welcomed the EU Parliament’s decision to maintain the role of crop-based biofuels in meeting the EU’s transport renewable energy target.

However, it decries the EP approach on high Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) feedstocks, such as soy and palm oil, which the trade group said could lead to further instability on the EU energy market. 

Yesterday, the EP voted on the report of MEP Markus Pieper (EPP, DE) proposing a revision of the EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED III).

Background

The EU Commission adopted the 'Fit for 55'​ package in July 2021, adapting existing climate and energy legislation to meet the new EU objective of a minimum 55% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030.

One element of the package is the revision of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED II), which will help the EU deliver the new 55% GHG target. Under RED II currently in force, the EU is obliged to ensure at least 32% of its energy consumption comes from renewable energy sources by 2030.

The ‘Fit for 55’​ package also includes the recast of the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED), aligning its provisions to the new 55% GHG target. The EED currently sets out the level of energy savings the EU needs to make to meet the agreed goal of 32.5% energy efficiency improvements by 2030.

FEDIOL said it is pleased that the EP is aligned with the Commission and Council on maintaining the 7% cap on crop-based biofuels.

“Crop-based biofuels are an immediate and cost-effective tool to reduce emissions in the transport sector and will help reduce the EU’s dependence on fossil fuel imports. Overall, maintaining crop-based biofuels will support the EU’s energy security as well as its higher target for the use of renewable energy by 2030.”

However, it has chided the MEPs for deviating from the stance of the Commission and Council on high ILUC-risk feedstocks.

While operators have been preparing for a phaseout of such feedstocks by 2030 in the EU, the EP proposes to exclude them as of entry into force of the Directive. It has also changed part of the criteria adopted by the Commission on the determination of high ILUC-risk feedstocks.

“Changing the criteria and shortening the transition time will be disruptive and damaging to industries with negative repercussions on the production of high protein feed. An appropriate interim period should be maintained, in line with the RED II, to allow industries to adapt to the new provisions, search for new raw material, and develop appropriate technologies.

“It should be reminded that all soy and palm oil currently contributing to the EU renewable energy targets comply with the strict sustainability requirements of RED II.

"Changing the criteria of the Commission’s delegated act on high ILUC-risk feedstocks - lowering the threshold for the average annual expansion of the global production area in high carbon stocks to 7,9% - will also have a negative impact on soy production in the EU, including Austria, Belgium, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Spain, and Greece,” ​said FEDIOL.

Pieper, following the position taken​ by the EP’s Industry, Research and Energy Committee (ITRE) on RED III in July, said soy would no longer be counted towards the quota for first-generation biofuels because there are doubts about the sustainable conditions in which third world countries deliver it for Europe.

Tackling food crises

NGOs like Oxfam and the European Federation for Transport and Environment (T&E) also weighed in on the outcome of yesterday’s vote – the organizations criticised the EP for backing crop-based biofuels. “No majority could be found for either the Left's proposal to end support for all crop biofuels nor the Greens and Socialists & Democrats (S&D) proposals for reduction or specific restrictions on crop biofuels during times of food crises.”

Maik Marahrens, senior campaigner at T&E, said: “The European Parliament missed a historic chance to stand up for the most vulnerable. If Europe alone were to release the food grains it burns for biofuels to the global market, we could feed millions of people. Europe’s lawmakers failed to put right one of Europe’s most destructive climate policies.” 

However, the T&E praised the MEPs' support for the phase out of soy and palm oil as biofuel feedstocks in 2023, calling the move “good news”​ for biodiversity and local communities.

What’s next?

MEPs and the Czech Presidency of the Council will now enter into negotiations on the RED III and the EED files.

FEDIOL is urging the Council to stick to its decision to maintain the Commission’s approach on high ILUC-risk provisions to avoid further disruptions to the EU’s energy security and to EU industry.

Related topics: Regulation

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