Missed opportunity: Will the EU biofuel cap lead to food price rises?

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Missed opportunity: Will the EU biofuel cap lead to food price rises?
Members of the European Parliament have voted to limit the amount of biofuels that can be derived from food-based crops to 6%, but campaigners say the limit is too high and will lead to more rises in food prices.

European Parliament passed an amendment to limit the amount of transport fuel that can be obtained from food and energy crops to 6% of total energy consumed for transport by 2020. 

The cap relates to wider EU targets to cut emissions – part of which includes a target for 10% of transport fuel to be comprised of biofuel by 2020. Despite the 6% limit on food-based biofuels Europe still aims to obtain 10% of transport energy from renewable sources by 2020, meaning pressure will be put on the rapid development of alternative ‘advanced biofuels’ sourced from seaweed or certain types of waste – which the vote has determined should represent at least 2.5% of transportation's energy consumption by 2020.

MEPs have missed a 'historic opportunity'

The new limit is designed to ease concerns about the amount of agricultural land that is used to grow crops for biofuel use – something that has led to increasing prices for food crops in recent years. 

While the introduction of a cap to the level of food crops that can be used for biofuel has been a long-time target for campaigners, many have reacted by saying that the limit is too high and will lead to even higher prices for food crops.

"MEPs have missed a historic opportunity fix a biofuel policy that has led to soaring food prices, deforestation and an increase in climate-changing emissions,” ​said Kenneth Richter, biofuels campaigner for Friends of the Earth.

"Instead the European Parliament has opted for a desperately weak compromise that will fail to curb the grave social and environmental impacts caused by the EU's biofuel target,”​ he added.

Cap to drive innovation in biofuels?

The European parliament's environment, public health and food safety committee had recommended a 5.5% cap. French MEP Corinne Lepage, who had supported the lower cap, said the 6% agreement was a success and would drive innovation in the biofuels sector and lead to the creation of cleaner biofuels from non-food sources.

"I welcome the parliament vote in favour of correct accounting of greenhouse gas emissions including indirect land use change and in favour of a reasonable cap on first generation biofuels. This is an important signal that support should be focused on advanced biofuels from 2020,"​ said Lepage.

A move for Lepage to start direct negotiations with the European council - the body made up of European heads of government - on the legislation failed to pass by one vote.

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