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The long-term vision for a climate neutral EU also needs short-term action

19/03/2019

The European Parliament has now given its thumbs-up to the Commission’s long-term vision for decarbonisation by 2050, adopting a resolution broadly backing the strategy and calling for even more ambitious progress by 2030.

This week, EU leaders will gather in Brussels to try to add momentum to the mission. There will be lots of talk about how the EU can have a zero-carbon future if everyone works together.

So far, so good. But then it will then be time to put actions behind words, and that doesn’t always prove to be easy. Despite the big ambitions, the EU is actually backsliding on transport decarbonisation. And it is consistently downplaying one of the best tools it has already for an energy transition: low-carbon liquid fuels like renewable EU ethanol.

The simple fact is the EU will need such sustainable low-carbon fuels if it wants to make real progress toward a zero-carbon future. As the IEA and IRENA have recently highlighted, a massive upscaling in the use of sustainable biofuels is essential to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Some in the Commission apparently would like to restrict the definition of sustainable biofuels to 2nd-generation technology, despite the clear message from the adoption of RED II – governing EU renewables policy for the 2020-2030 period – that 1st-generation, crop-based biofuels that do not cause deforestation like ethanol are still important. But when you look at the scenarios in the Commission’s strategy it’s obvious that Europe will need both 1st and 2nd generation biofuels.

Cars with internal combustion engines will be a majority on Europe’s roads for decades to come. We need low-carbon liquid fuels – and governments willing to push higher ethanol blends like E10 – to lower the emissions from those vehicles.

Only by using all the tools we have available can Europe achieve its long-term vision. Instead of looking for ways to minimise the important contribution low-carbon liquid fuels like ethanol can make, EU policymakers should:

  • Recognise that low carbon fuels must play an important role in decarbonising transport
  • Ensure investment security and predictability for sustainable biofuels
  • Ensure the swift revision of the Energy Taxation Directive, to make it a more efficient tool for environmental policy
  • Reap the benefits of the bioeconomy, which is at the heart of the energy transition
  • Support the deployment of carbon capture technologies

Read ePURE’s full position paper on the EU 2050 strategy here.