The European Parliament resumes the debates towards reviewing the ILUC Directive

Brussels, January 2015. The ILUC Directive debate picks up pace with the publication of the draft recommendation for a second reading  by its rapporteur, the Finnish MEP Nils Torvalds. His amendments to the position taken by the Council in December aim at establishing a more stable and clear regime for biofuels beyond the 2020 horizon, protecting the invest already done and further supporting advanced biofuels by setting up mandatory ambitious goals.


In particular, regarding the advanced biofuels regime, the Finnish MEP proposed to give a higher relevance to wood feedstock by deleting a reference to the cascading principle. This precept aims at using the wood raw material in a certain order of priority, putting the products with the highest added value at the top of the scale and energy in the lowest, at the end of the product's life. This principle is included in the Council position on ILUC Directive proposal and in policy documents such as the EU Forest Strategy COM(2013)659 . Thus, wood-based advanced biofuels would not be penalized by this norm and the different uses for wood raw material could compete in equal conditions, opening new opportunities for these kind of advanced biofuels.
Furthermore, Mr. Torvalds has abandoned provisions agreed in the first reading during the previous EU Parliament term, in relation to the potential impact of advanced biofuels. In the first reading proposal the Parliament approved including a mandate to the European Commission to assess the “environmental, economic and social impacts” of advanced biofuels and their “impact on the availability of wood as a resource and on sectors using biomass”. Moreover, the proposal established the mandate to draft sustainability criteria for advanced biofuels if necessary.  In this instead, Mr Torvalds advocates for a Directive that can set up a stable framework for promoting advanced biofuels after 2020. Thus the new amendments put the focus on clearer longer term perspectives that might boost the investment on advanced biofuels and put an end to the uncertainty that so far has affected the industry. 


In addition to this, Torlvads's proposal keeps the binding 2,5% goal for advanced biofuels in the final consumption by 2020 approved by the EU Parliament in the first reading. This subtarget is way more ambitious than the non mandatory 0,5% agreed by the Council. Furthermore, this new proposal rejects the quadruple counting for certain feedstocks such as algae or bacteria and permits all advanced feedstocks to be counted double for the 2,5 subtarget. Thus, it simplifies the accounting regime bringing more clarity and simplicity to the Directive. Still, the main difference and the future source of conflict with the Council position is the 6% cap on the share of conventional biofuels that can contribute to the 10% renewable energy use target. This cap is 1 point under the the one established by the Council in December and some Member States are not keen to negotiate any reductions.
This proposal shall be debated in the following months by the Environment committee which is responsible for this dossier and will take into account the opinions of other related parliamentary committees as the Transport, Energy or Agriculture ones. A final vote at the EP Plenary is not expected until the spring. In any case, due to the differences between the Parliament and Council positions, a trilogue, a direct negotiation between Parliament, Council and Commission is expected, so the final approval of this Directive might be delayed until the end of 2015.The ILUC Directive debate picks up pace with the publication of the draft recommendation for a second reading  by its rapporteur, the Finnish MEP Nils Torvalds. His amendments to the position taken by the Council in December aim at establishing a more stable and clear regime for biofuels beyond the 2020 horizon, protecting the invest already done and further supporting advanced biofuels by setting up mandatory ambitious goals. 


In particular, regarding the advanced biofuels regime, the Finnish MEP proposed to give a higher relevance to wood feedstock by deleting a reference to the cascading principle. This precept aims at using the wood raw material in a certain order of priority, putting the products with the highest added value at the top of the scale and energy in the lowest, at the end of the product's life. This principle is included in the Council position on ILUC Directive proposal and in policy documents such as the EU Forest Strategy COM(2013)659 . Thus, wood-based advanced biofuels would not be penalized by this norm and the different uses for wood raw material could compete in equal conditions, opening new opportunities for these kind of advanced biofuels.


Furthermore, Mr. Torvalds has abandoned provisions agreed in the first reading during the previous EU Parliament term, in relation to the potential impact of advanced biofuels. In the first reading proposal the Parliament approved including a mandate to the European Commission to assess the “environmental, economic and social impacts” of advanced biofuels and their “impact on the availability of wood as a resource and on sectors using biomass”. Moreover, the proposal established the mandate to draft sustainability criteria for advanced biofuels if necessary.  In this instead, Mr Torvalds advocates for a Directive that can set up a stable framework for promoting advanced biofuels after 2020. Thus the new amendments put the focus on clearer longer term perspectives that might boost the investment on advanced biofuels and put an end to the uncertainty that so far has affected the industry.


In addition to this, Torlvads's proposal keeps the binding 2,5% goal for advanced biofuels in the final consumption by 2020 approved by the EU Parliament in the first reading. This subtarget is way more ambitious than the non mandatory 0,5% agreed by the Council. Furthermore, this new proposal rejects the quadruple counting for certain feedstocks such as algae or bacteria and permits all advanced feedstocks to be counted double for the 2,5 subtarget. Thus, it simplifies the accounting regime bringing more clarity and simplicity to the Directive. Still, the main difference and the future source of conflict with the Council position is the 6% cap on the share of conventional biofuels that can contribute to the 10% renewable energy use target. This cap is 1 point under the the one established by the Council in December and some Member States are not keen to negotiate any reductions.
This proposal shall be debated in the following months by the Environment committee which is responsible for this dossier and will take into account the opinions of other related parliamentary committees as the Transport, Energy or Agriculture ones. A final vote at the EP Plenary is not expected until the spring. In any case, due to the differences between the Parliament and Council positions, a trilogue, a direct negotiation between Parliament, Council and Commission is expected, so the final approval of this Directive might be delayed until the end of 2015.As a renewable energy, biomass is becoming more and more important in Europe. In order to cover the growing demand for biomass raw materials as energy carriers, what are known as Short Rotation Coppices (SRCs), where fast-growing trees are cultivated within short rotation periods, are increasingly popular. The potential recognition of SRCs as what is referred to as “greening measures” in the framework of EU agricultural policy and related betterment can give the sector a further boost. ROKWOOD is an EU-financed project which supports the cultivation and effective utilization of SRCs in European regions. The objective of ROKWOOD is to overcome local barriers to the development of biomass regions in Europe. One of the principal and already achieved project results is a roadmap to strengthen the sector in Europe.

Juan Elìas Vergara, Mìguez, EUBIA