Socialists confident ENVI committee can achieve 'ambitious' biofuels vote

A positive outcome on making biofuel production fairer, sustainable and more innovative is within reach of EU policymakers, writes Enrico Gasbarra.

By Enrico Gasbarra MEP

20 Feb 2015

Just a few short months after the new parliament took office, a discussion of great environmental policy and development importance is drawing to a close. Making biofuels regulation fairer, more sustainable and more innovative will significantly enhance the EU's role as a major player in fighting climate change and promoting the green economy.

Europe, on the front line in the global battle with greenhouse gas emissions, has implemented forward-looking regulations over the years, driving other areas of the globe to commit to climate change. These same regulations occasionally need to be reviewed, as they do not always culminate in the desired results, which is why, as European legislators, it is our task now to create a new legal framework in order to finally put a stop to the so-called indirect land use changes (ILUC) effect.

"Opening negotiations with the council will not be easy, given the resistance of a number of member states to acknowledge the issues created by ILUC"

We have had enough of food having to compete against fuel, so let us stop pitting the production of one against the other.

By addressing ILUC reform, the European parliament is truly 'writing the future' in the sense of not only giving immediate answers to the current problems and aberrations, but also setting standards to facilitate future investment and mitigate the increasing damage caused by climate change.

Parliament's environment, public health and food safety (ENVI) committee is due to vote on ILUC, and I am confident we can achieve an ambitious, useful result by reiterating the courageous stand taken by MEPs during the first reading in 2013. Opening negotiations with the council will not be easy, given the resistance of a number of member states to acknowledge the issues created by ILUC.

As shadow rapporteur for the parliament's S&D group, my aim has been to support rapporteur Nils Torvalds' efforts to reach a compromise with all sides. This has been extremely challenging, given the more than 450 amendments submitted to the ENVI committee alone.

However, I truly believe a positive outcome is within reach and will, in this regard, vindicate some of the results achieved by the S&D group, exerting pressure which I hope will be maintained to the end in the upcoming trilogue meetings.

"The future of advanced biofuels entirely depends on our ability to use legislation to maintain an investment-friendly environment"

We want a layer of the common agricultural policy for six per cent first generation biofuels to be applied to both directives; a formal reference to the commitment to accounting for the ILUC factor, the inclusion of sustainability criteria - without which the new regulations would be unworkable, and a reaffirmation of the beginning of the end to public financing of the previous generation's biofuels.

The future of advanced biofuels entirely depends on our ability to use legislation to maintain an investment-friendly environment. Parliament has finally set high, attainable targets - 2.5 per cent - and a rather strict list of biofuels that meet the requirements to be considered advanced.

Therefore, we must look to the future and plan ahead, and I hope that the commission and the council, by comprehensively defining energy and environmental policy for years to come, will ensure that the approach to these principles is consistent and focused.

The legislative proposals for a future energy union and preparations for the COP21 climate summit in Paris at the end of the year will be decisive in giving credibility to a reform-friendly environment currently concentrated on biofuels.

In this scenario, we Socialists will continue to contribute to a Europe that is progressively strengthening its position as a global leader in sustainability and innovation.

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