EU Energy Council fails to agree on restrictions to bad biofuels - 12th December 2013

Oil palm fruit

Ministers turn a blind eye to biofuels' devastating impacts

DTE update, 12th December, 2013

On 12th December 2013, EU energy ministers rejected a political deal to amend biofuels policy, proposed by the Lithuanian Presidency of the EU.

The rejected deal would have further weakened the European Parliament’s proposed amendments to the policy in September by increasing the cap on food-based biofuels for transport to 7% and axing mandatory accounting of Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) effects.

It was rejected by a ‘blocking minority’ of Member States, who had opposing objections. More progressive countries, such as Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, Denmark and the Netherlands rejected the amendments on the grounds they were too weak whereas Hungary and Poland refused to accept limits on the use of bad biofuels. 

The Presidency’s deal would have been a pitifully weak compromise, but failure to find an agreement this year has indefinitely blighted the EU’s chances of addressing the impacts of bad biofuels, which cause competition for food, land grabbing, human right violations and deforestation in Indonesia and globally. The delay allows billions of European taxpayers' money to continue to be pumped into damaging, first generation biofuels – reducing incentives for the development of more sustainable fuels and renewable forms of energy, and jeopardizing EU governments’ chances of hitting targets to reduce emissions by 2020.

As the debate continues, it is vital that other member states, which initially supported stronger reforms (such as the UK, Germany, Sweden and Finland) move out of the shadows and push forward amendments which will genuinely fix the EU’s failing biofuels policy.

Brief Background:

In September 2013, the European Parliament (EP) voted to tighten the European Commission’s earlier proposal to restrict the use of bad biofuels by agreeing to a 6% cap on land-based biofuels, mandatory accounting of ILUC effects and a 2.5% sub target on advanced biofuels. The results of the EP’s vote was then passed onto EU Council for further review, but centre-right MEPs refused to grant a mandate for French liberal MEP Corinne LePage, the Rapporteur (leader) of the file, to begin negotiations with the Council. The Council’s negotiations proved to be a difficult due to the divided opinions of its member states. The process was drawn out for three months during which time the Lithuanian Presidency of the EU was charged with developing a political deal on which EU Member States would vote, in December 2013.

The Presidency’s proposal for a 7% cap and exclusion of mandatory accounting for ILUC did little to fix the issues. It virtually maintains the policy status quo and the devastating impacts it causes.

The Presidency’s deal would also have scrapped a sub-target for a minimum 2.5% of fuels to be met by advanced biofuels – an incentive which would have encouraged a phase out of bad, first generation biofuels and investment in less damaging alternatives.

What happens next?

The European Parliament’s term will end in April 2014 and elections for the new Parliament will begin during the second half of 2014. With the Lithuanian Presidency coming to an end, the biofuels file will be handed to the incoming Greek presidency early next year. The process is now likely to be put on the back-burner until the new Parliament is elected, with any real progress delayed until late 2014.

Please contact Clare McVeigh at for further information and keep your eyes on our agrofuels webpage for updates on how you can help with the campaign in 2014.