* Whether EU targets should be binding depends on
* Environment ministers could discuss "carbon milestones" in
By Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS, Feb 7 The EU's energy chief said
on Tuesday for now he was opposed to raising the bloc's 10
percent biofuel target due to environmental concerns and urged
the bloc to agree 2030 energy goals within two years.
"During the life of this Commission, we want to be able to
reach a conclusion on targets for 2030," Guenther Oettinger
said, referring to the current EU executive, whose mandate
expires in 2014.
On the biofuel target, he told a conference: "If I had to
decide today, I would reject a proposal to go beyond 10 percent
(on biofuels). The whole question of sustainability has to be
The conference debated the EU's 2050 energy road map, which
aims to provide guidance for investment beyond an existing set
of firm targets which establish policy until 2020.
The European Union has a binding target to raise the share
of renewable energy in road transport to 10 percent by the end
of the decade, almost all of which is expected to be met by
blending biofuels with conventional fuels.
It also has a 2020 target to increase the overall share of
renewables in the energy mix to 20 percent and to lower carbon
emissions by 20 percent, as well as a non-binding goal to
improve energy efficiency by 20 percent.
On the question of whether 2030 targets should be legally
binding, Oettinger said that would depend on whether biofuels
and other renewable sources were financially competitive with
"If they can compete, we don't need binding legislation," he
Oettinger oversees the European Commission department
responsible for implementing the EU's biofuel target, which
environmental groups have said could create more problems than
it would solve.
The EU executive is grappling with the question of how to
regulate the unintended environmental consequences of biofuel
production and has repeatedly delayed legislative proposals due
last year on indirect land use change (ILUC).
ILUC refers to when biofuels spur the conversion of forests
and peatland into farmland, a factor which threatens to
undermine the green credentials of some biofuels.
Scientific studies on ILUC prepared for the Commission
concluded that biodiesel from EU rapeseed, Asian palm oil and
South American soybeans all emit more carbon dioxide than
conventional diesel when their indirect emissions are taken into
Last month, U.S. regulators said biodiesel from palm oil
failed to achieve the required greenhouse gas savings to qualify
for a renewable fuels programme.
EU biodiesel producers, who have halted investment in new
production capacity partly because of the regulatory
uncertainty, have rejected the findings of the EU studies and
argued that the science on ILUC is still too uncertain.
Environmental campaigners argue that the EU's biofuel target
does little to mitigate climate-warming emissions from transport
and costs European taxpayers an additional 18 billion euros
($23.5 billion) a year, which would be better spent on promoting
electric vehicles and public transport.
Another headache for the Commission is the weakness of
carbon prices on its Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which at
around 8.5 euros on Tuesday remain well below levels
needed to encourage low carbon investment.
EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard reiterated on
Tuesday that the Commission was looking at ways to support the
ETS, but did not give details.
Martin Lidegaard, minister for climate, energy and building
in Denmark, current holder of the EU's rotating presidency, said
he hoped a meeting of EU environment ministers in March would
discuss new milestones on how to reduce carbon emissions beyond
the 20 percent goal for 2020.
"We need to give the market some quite strong signals," he
($1 = 0.7646 euros)
(Additional reporting by Charlie Dunmore; editing by Rex
Merrifield and Jason Neely)