5. European Commission releases draft post-2020 Renewable Energy Directive: Lessons not learned
At the end of November, the European Commission finally published the long-awaited proposal for a new Renewable Energy Directive (RED), which would come into effect in 2020. Unfortunately, they seem to have learned nothing from the disastrous experience with the expansion of biofuels and wood-based bioenergy triggered by the EU's existing directive since 2010.
See here for a good article about the proposals, which refers to a joint press release by civil society groups including Biofuelwatch.
The overall renewable energy target is to be raised from 20% in 2020 to 27% in 2030. If by renewables the EU simply meant wind and solar power and other low-carbon, no-burn technologies, then the new target would simply be way too unambitious. But unfortunately, biofuels and biomass remain part of the mix. And this means they'll almost certainly account for most of the additional 'renewables', since they already make up two-thirds of those across the EU.
The biofuel target for transport fuels is to be replaced with a much smaller one for waste based and 'advanced biofuels', even though the majority of 'advanced biofuels' proposed don't exist and aren't likely to become commercially viable in the foreseeable future. But biofuels made from food, including palm oil, soya and cereals, can still account for the equivalent of 7% of total transport fuel, which is a lot more than current production. Their share is to be gradually reduced - but too slowly, and way too late, given their disastrous impacts on forests, communities, food sovereignty, biodiversity and, last but not least, on the climate.
The use of biomass, which means mainly wood, on the other hand, is to be drastically expanded. Some extremely weak sustainability standards are proposed for biomass burned in larger power stations, but as with biofuel standards, there will be no external auditing and verification as to whether they are being complied with. And standards could never make a fundamentally unsustainable demand for wood (or anything else) sustainable. Interestingly, the proposed biomass standards closely resemble those introduced by the UK government last December. Both the UK government and the EU Commission have been lobbied strongly by industry, including by the Sustainable Biomass Partnership, set up and run by large European Energy companies and chaired by Drax's CEO.
The European Parliament, European Council and European Commission will be debating and finalising the proposal over the next two years.