European commissioners backtrack on crop-based biofuel targets

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Commissioners backtrack on crop-based biofuel targets

Related tags European union Greenhouse gas Carbon dioxide Eu

The European Commission has backtracked on biofuels targets, proposing 5% a cap on the amount of fuel that should be produced from food crops to 2020, on concerns that biofuels may be less eco-friendly than earlier thought and may contribute to higher food prices.

Current biofuel consumption in the EU stands at about 4.5%, according to 2011 figures, and the aim has been to ramp up biofuel use, to account for 10% of EU-wide fuel by the end of the decade, in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels. However, industry, scientists and legislators have been split on whether the push for more biofuels diverts land away from food crops, thereby reducing supply and boosting food prices.

Following a meeting in Cyprus on Monday, EU energy commissioner Günther Oettinger and climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard said in a joint statement: "It is wrong to believe that we are pushing food-based biofuels. In our upcoming proposal for new legislation, we do exactly the contrary: We limit them to the current consumption level, that is 5% up to 2020.”

The proposals, which are expected to be published in October, would need to be passed by EU lawmakers and governments before such a cap becomes mandatory.

‘Not in competition with food’

The commissioners added: “The Commission's message for post-2020 is that our clear preference are biofuels produced from non-food feedstocks, like waste or agricultural residues such as straw. These new type of biofuels are not in competition with food, nor do they require additional land. We are pushing biofuels that help us cutting substantial CO2-emissions, do not compete with food and are sustainable and green at the same time."

Following the energy ministers’ meeting, head of Oxfam’s EU office Natalia Alonso said: "At a time of high and volatile food prices it is disappointing that EU Ministers have not publicly questioned Europe’s biofuels policy, which is undermining poor communities’ right to food and land.”

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