Biofuels are an important element of the EU’s renewable energy policy, which is helping Europe keep its leadership role in in the clean energy transition and in meeting the goals set by the Paris Agreement. However, rules are needed to ensure that the production of feedstock for biofuels is sustainable and does not cause deforestation through indirect land use change (ILUC).
ILUC can occur when biofuel feedstock production, typically taking place on cropland that was previously used for other agriculture needs such as growing food or feed, pushes agriculture expansion into non-cropland, since this agricultural production still remains necessary. This expansion might occur into areas with high carbon stock such as forests, wetlands and peatlands, resulting in the release of CO2 stored in trees and soil, and therefore negating the greenhouse gas savings that resulted from the use of biofuels to replace fossil fuels.
To address this risk of indirect land use change, the recast Renewable Energy Directive sets limits on high ILUC-risk biofuels, bioliquids and biomass fuels. These limits will affect the amount of these fuels that Member States can count towards their national targets when calculating the overall national share of renewables and the share of renewables in transport. Member States will still be able to use (and import) fuels covered by these limits, but they will not be able to include these volumes when calculating the extent to which they have fulfilled their renewable targets. These limits consist of a freeze at Member States’ 2019 levels for the period 2021-2023, which will gradually decrease from the end of 2023 to zero by 2030. The Directive also stipulates an exemption from these limits for biofuels, bioliquids and biomass fuels certified as low ILUC-risk.
To implement this approach, as required by the Directive, the Commission has today published a delegated act and its annex that sets out the criteria both for determining high ILUC-risk feedstock (for which a significant expansion of the production area into land with high carbon stock is observed), and for certifying low ILUC-risk biofuels, bioliquids and biomass fuels. The Commission has also adopted an accompanying report on the status of production expansion of relevant food and feed crops worldwide, based on the best available scientific data (REPORT and ANNEX).
Following today's adoption by the Commission of the Delegated Act and its submission to the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, these two institutions have, during a two-month period scrutiny period, a right to express an objection, after which, if none are received, the text will be published in the Official Journal of the European Union. This two-month period can be extended by other two months if requested by any of them.
Delegated act – adopted by Commission on 13 March 2019
Factsheet: The revised renewable energy directive (December, 2018)
Fuel Quality Directive (2009/30/EC)
13 March 2019