Dods EUM: Oral question on the overdue implementation of Fuel Quality Directive

On January 22, the ENVI Committee heard an exchange of views with Commission representatives on an Oral question by Satu Hassi (Greens/EFA, FI) about the overdue implementation of Article 7a of the Fuel Quality Directive. Please find below a summary of the discussion.

By Dods EU monitoring

25 Feb 2014

Satu Hassi (Greens/EFA, FI) began by saying that today the Commission has published a proposal for a climate package 2030. She then explained that the Fuel Quality directive (FQD) is the only part of the climate 2020 package that has not been implemented. The proposal has been here for years. An impact assessment (IA) was completed last year but the conclusions have not been made public. The implementation measures should have been there by 2011, so there is a 3 year delay.

She then asked two questions linked to what has been decided for the 2020 package. Will the Commission report on the conclusion of the IA to the Parliament, especially about the expected costs for EU industry. Could the Commission confirm that the IA showed no significant cost for the industry and no significant administrative burden?

When does the Commission plan to release the reviewed implementation proposal?

She finally raised a third question linked to the publication of the climate package 2030. The Commission said that there will be no FQD targets after 2020 which more or less makes this legislation a lame document.

Furthermore, she asked a third question which it is not formally linked to the original question but on the same issue. Why does the Commission think it is not appropriate to set new targets for transport fuels? Transport emissions are still rising whereas for other sectors it is going down. They are facing the risk that transport is becoming the biggest sector in terms of CO2 emissions after 2020. They all know that the delay is due to the Canadian pressure, in the context of the Canada–EU trade negotiations but it is not just about Canadian tar sand, or any from other part of the world, it is also for example about diesel made of US shale gas which has an even worse carbon footprint than tar sand oil has. When the so-called unconventional sources become a more and more relevant issue and bigger business, it is more important for the future to have carbon footprint criteria for our transport fuel, she concluded.

Linda McAvan (S&D, UK) said that today is a sad day for EU climate change policy as they have had a weak announcement on the 2030 climate package, a fantasy kind of renewal target but no biding target for Member States. They have seen aviation emissions watered down. She wondered how much it has to do with climate policy and with bigger politics, mentioning the Canadian agreement and US agreement. She also gave the cloning issue as another example of the EU watered down to feed in with US issues around food etc. This is a good day for the fossil fuel industry today, she continued as they have achieved most of the objectives they have tried to achieve in the last few years. She did not blame Commissioner Hedegaard who has tried hard to get this issue through, but she was blocked by industry and energy Commissioners and a weak leadership from President Barroso. The EU talks about leading in this policy but what are we going to say at the next climate talks, she asked. This is disappointing news. In some years, we will see dirty fuels in our cars and there will be nothing we can do. Everybody knows that if the targets are not repeated after 2020, nobody will implement them.

Philip Owen, Head of Unit Transport and Ozone DG Climate, said that this has been a long process going on since 2009 and that they would be all happy to see a conclusion achieved as quickly as possible. They had a stakeholder meeting in April 2013, where they got into the details about what they were going to do in the IA. During this event, they focused their attention on methodologies to address how to calculate the GHG from fossil fuels. It involved an average EU default values, the option favoured by the industry, a Member State default values put forward by Member States, and the Commission proposal how to look at feedstock but also to allow people to calculation. The IA has focused on this. The costs associated with this comes from two sources. First of all, the cost submitting the 6 % target. How do we reduce the carbon intensity of the fuel going into that, was the question. That is where there has been a difference between the Commission and the industry which was saying that they will get crude shuffling, with low carbon crude coming to Europe and high carbon crude going elsewhere, and this is costly. The Commission analysis shows that this would not happen. What will happen is to see biofuels coming in and the emission of fluorinated gases from extraction phase being reduced. These are at lower cost than those put forward by companies. The other costs are administrative burden on companies to deal with this and Member States to verify it. The Commission has addressed this area as well. The industry actually said that these costs would be minimum. On the costs, the administrative costs are not significant and the compliance costs are lower than the one stated by the industry. This has fed into the IA. This one is by and large finalised, but the Commission usually publishes IA once the proposal has been made. They are not quite there to make this proposal yet, he admitted. The Commissioner has largely been involved in the 2030 package in the recent months. A lot of people have been involved in this work so that the FQD has not had the prominence perhaps everybody would have liked to see in recent times. They will come back quickly to look at this now, but there is no detailed timetable at the time. But his Commissioner would like to finalise this proposal while still in office. However, he was not sure it will be possible to bring it to this current Parliament.

Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy (ALDE, NL) said that it is more disappointing than he thought as all the arguments against the FQD are not really relevant. It is not very expensive, there is no huge administrative burden etc… The only argument is that the Commission is not ready yet, and this probably not before April. He was afraid that after April, the Commission will be as much leaving Brussels mentally as Parliamentarians as the end of the mandate will come very soon. He was afraid not to expect any proposal coming under this Commission. It is not only about the FQD in Europe but a signal to the rest of the world, he said. The tar sands are one of the most polluting fossil fuels that we have and it is not just about Canada, not only climate, it is also a huge biodiversity problem. Tar sands come from Kazakhstan, Russia, Nigeria with tropical forest that might be under threat. If they do not continue with an ambitious FQD in the EU, the message to the rest of the world is; come with your tar sand, not only to Canada but the other countries. And that is a wrong signal. He then asked a concrete question:
A group of 50 international scientists signed a letter to the Commission with arguments why the FQD on tar sand should be continued. Would it be possible for the Commission to make the answer to these scientists public, he asked. He thought the public deserves to have a transparent open public debate on this, given the huge effect of tar sands on climate and biodiversity.

Bas Eickhout (Greens/EFA, NL) asked two follow-up questions:
Could you please explain the inconsistency in the Commission, that on the one hand on the general package, the Commission is stepping back away from renewables, target setting and putting more emphasis on GHG reduction targets. Why the Commission is not following that same rational within the transport sector? That would mean making the FQD more important.
There is a concern that because of the 2030 package where the FQD is scrapped, that therefore no further work will be done on the FQD. He asked the representative to state that the Commission will continue and come forward under this Commission with a proposal for the FQD at least until 2020.

The representative from the Commission replied firstly on the letter, that he would not see any problem to make this letter available.

There will be a continuing need to account for the emissions from fuels. If they have set a 40% economy wide target, some of that target will be accounted for the ETS and some of it will not be. A future effort sharing decision will be needed. In order to know if you are getting towards this target you have to have some way of capturing the information for the fuels going in to the transport sector. It makes sense to have a methodology to account for the fossil fuels emissions as there is one for direct biofuels emissions. You can only have accurate accounting if you bring in the indirect emissions to first generation biofuels and a reliable methodology for accounting for fossil fuels. He did not think the FQD dies on December 31 2020.

It is also not strictly true to say that the transport sector does not have any target, he added. The transport white paper does include a 2030 and a 2050 target. It has not been adopted formally and finally by the Parliament and Council but in the Commission, they are still talking about these targets.

On the implementing measures for FQD article 7a, they are late, he admitted. But all is not lost. Certainly, they want to come forward with this proposal and he was convinced that his Commissioner shares this will, he concluded and they are working hard to make it happen.

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