On 11 and 12 April the environmental ministers of the EU27 gathered for an Informal Environment Council where they debated biodiversity, biomass and biofuels. Among other important issues they addressed the sustainability criteria in their debate. The key environmental and social concerns were presented to the ministers through a letter (1) from Focus Association for Sustainable Development, but the organisation also faced the ministers with those concerns through an action at the exhibition on innovative environmental technologies related to second-generation biofuels, which the ministers visited on 12 April in the afternoon at Ljubljana open market.

The environmental group stresses that numerous studies show that there are serious doubts about the possibility to sustainably achieve the proposed 10% objective for renewable energy in transport sector by 2020. ‘We believe that people and their environment should not be victims of the swiftly growing transport sector and therefore we call for subjecting biofuel production to strict sustainability criteria, no matter where the production happens,’ explained the chair of the organisation, Lidija Živčič.

Like many European environmental networks, Focus activists also called for rejection of the proposed 10% target and limiting of the amount of biofuels that count towards the 10% greenhouse gas reduction target in the Fuel Quality Directive. They also demand that the greenhouse gas savings due to sustainably produced biofuel should be at least 60% compared with the EU’s current average fuel mix and that minimum environmental safeguards should be part of the Renewables and Fuel Quality Directives. Indirect land-use change effects have to be adequately addressed also, as these can be the determining factor for the success or failure of the proposed measures on biofuels. All in all, the criteria should ensure that the biomass is used in the most efficient way, i.e. in the electricity and heating sector.

Activists also urged the environmental ministers to give attention also to the social aspects and the risks of the developing countries. ‘Mandatory social standards should be respected, based on international conventions and agreements. Safe working environment and conditions should be secured and land rights should be protected. The criteria must also provide for monitoring of impacts on food security and implementation of corrective measures when necessary, as we do not want people’s hunger to fuel the cars,’ explained organisation’s development officer, Živa Gobbo.

‘The experience from the past years shows that in spite of the marginality of the measure, the transport debate mainly remains focused on biofuels, while other measures are often neglected or pushed aside by the biofuel debate. This diversion is not just bad for the formulation of sustainable transport policies, but also for the investments. Money invested in biofuel production is tied up and cannot be invested into more effective measures, such as local production of energy,’ says Živčič.

Lidija Živčič, Focus Association for sustainable development; [email protected], +386 41 291091
Živa Gobbo, Focus Association for sustainable development, [email protected], +386 41 872473