BIOFUELS: A WAY FOR AGRICULTURE TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE GREEN DEAL GOALS
Agriculture can be an active part of the Green Deal and positively contribute to reach the ambitious goals that Europe has in terms of reducing GHG emissions.
We have often seen agriculture described by a negative narrative that exclusively emphasizes the environmental damage caused by the agricultural sector. A real agri-bashing, which doesn’t correspond to the reality and to all the efforts made by the agricultural world to increase the sustainability of the sector.
Many efforts in terms of sustainability of agricultural practices have been made and will continue to be made also encouraged by the latest reform and the one in progress of the Common Agricultural Policy.
But most of all, European agriculture provides sustainable biofuels which contribute to the need of decarbonizing the transport sector. Indeed, the Commission has indicated a target of 24% renewables for the transport sector by 2030 and at the moment, biofuels represent only 5.6% and electricity 0.6%.
Therefore, to reach this ambitious goal EU sourced biofuels play an important role: not only first generation biofuels which co-produce proteins and are compatible with food and feed production, but also biomethane coming from manure, intermediate crops and sequential or double cropping, which deserve to be encouraged more to make sure that agriculture can not only store more carbon in the soil but also produce food and fuel at the same time.
THE EU BIOFUELS ARE SUSTAINABLE
The EU has introduced sustainability criteria as safeguards to guarantee that the production and consumption of biofuels in Europe isn’t detrimental to the climate or the environment. Indeed, to benefit from EU support schemes, biofuels shall not be made from raw material obtained from land with a high biodiversity value, from land with high-carbon stock or from land that was peatland.
Moreover, EU sourced biofuels from rapeseed, corn, wheat create protein-rich by-products that help to limit the EU’s chronic deficit in plant proteins
Whilst the production of EU sourced biofuels was on the rise, forest land was also expanding in the EU. They contribute to the development of rural economies by providing farmers with an additional secure revenue inflow and market opportunity.
These facts are now widely accepted by international organizations and confirmed by events in the past decade. It is high time that long-lasting residual prejudices are removed as an impediment to fully exploiting the potential of sustainable biofuels to contributing to decarbonizing transport in the EU.
Rather, it is important to differentiate between biofuels that come from the EU, which are controlled, sustainable and do not contribute to deforestation, and imported ones that seldom do not meet these criteria.
REVISION OF RENEWABLE ENERGY DIRECTIVE (RED II)
As part of the Green Deal and the 2030 Climate Target Plan, the European Commission is revising some pieces of energy and environmental legislation, including the Renewable Energy Directive (RED II), whose proposal is expected in June 2021.
This review must be an opportunity to highlight that European biofuels that comply with stringent sustainability criteria are an essential resource for reducing GHG emissions and make a positive contribution to the decarbonisation of the transport sector, as they reduce carbon emissions of liquid fuels by 50-75%.
A clear policy distinction should be made between sustainable European sourced biofuels, and biofuels made of imported feedstocks originated from deforested areas, or based on fraud. Whilst the EU should promote the former, it should ban the latter, as it is a policy nonsense to fight climate change in the EU whilst causing widespread GHG emissions elsewhere.
Furthermore, as regards advanced biofuels, on the one hand, the use of genuine advanced biofuels must be encouraged, such as biogas from crops and residues like straw, which contributes to the circular economy and support more sustainable agricultural practices; On the other hand, we must avoid introducing in the legislation, and in particular in Annex IX of the RED, new sources of biofuels that are high value co-products and not real residues and that could disrupt the European market by shortening the supply of raw materials to the EU agrifood-industry, and generate the need to increase their imports from Third Countries.