While biofuels are important in helping the EU meet its greenhouse gas reductions targets, biofuel production typically takes place on cropland which was previously used for other agriculture such as growing food or feed. Since this agricultural production is still necessary, it may be partly displaced to previously non-cropland such as grasslands and forests. This process is known as indirect land use change (ILUC).
Indirect land use change risks negating the greenhouse gas savings that result from increased biofuels because grasslands and forests typically absorb high levels of CO2. By converting these land types to cropland, atmospheric CO2 levels may increase.
New rules to reduce indirect land use change
In 2015 new rules came into force which amend the current legislation on biofuels – specifically the Renewable Energy Directive and the Fuel Quality Directive - to reduce the risk of indirect land use change and to prepare the transition towards advanced biofuels. The amendment:
- limits the share of biofuels from crops grown on agricultural land that can be counted towards the 2020 renewable energy targets to 7%
- sets an indicative 0.5% target for advanced biofuels as a reference for national targets which will be set by EU countries in 2017
- harmonises the list of feedstocks for biofuels across the EU whose contribution would count double towards the 2020 target of 10% for renewable energy in transport
- requires that biofuels produced in new installations emit at least 60% fewer greenhouse gases than fossil fuels
- introduces stronger incentives for the use of renewable electricity in transport (by counting it more towards the 2020 target of 10% for renewable energy use in transport)
- includes a number of additional reporting obligations for the fuel providers, EU countries and the European Commission.