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WWF calls for mandatory eco-certification for biofuels


08 Feb 2006, Brussels, Belgium – Following the release of a European Commission communication on biofuels, WWF is calling for a mandatory eco-certification of all such fuels used in Europe.

The EC communication sets out how the European Union plans to increase the use and promote research into the development of more efficient biofuels, both in the EU and in developing countries. However, while it emphasises the importance of mitigating the environmental impacts of biofuel production, it falls short of explicitly calling for obligatory certification of all biofuels used in the EU, whether they come from domestic or imported sources.

“It is imperative that the EU establishes a legally binding certification system for both imported and domestic biofuels,” said Elizabeth Guttenstein, Head of European agriculture and rural development at WWF.

“The certification system must be based on enhancing the potential of biofuels to cut greenhouse gas emissions, while avoiding the wider environmental impacts of biofuel production. This will help to protect the environment in developing countries and contribute to CO2 emissions reductions in the EU in a sustainable way.”

As the EU is unlikely to be able to meet all its biofuels needs from domestic sources, any scheme designed to ensure biofuels are produced sustainably must cover imported fuels as well. Already millions of hectares of tropical forest have been cleared to make way for plantations of palm oil, soy and sugar – all major sources for biofuels — leading to huge biodiversity loss. As well as polluting soils and waters, the use of pesticides on the crops also threatens biodiversity.

The certification system must also cover the climate benefits of any potential biofuel, as energy-intensive production methods mean many biofuels offer little advantage over conventional fuels in terms of overall greenhouse gas emissions.

“The current practice of automatically classifying all biofuels as ‘renewable’ regardless of how they are produced is counter-productive,” commented Dr Stephan Singer, Head of WWF’s European Climate & Energy Policy Unit.

“If the EU is to meet its Kyoto and renewables targets, it must promote those biofuels which offer the greatest greenhouse gas savings, such as sustainably produced forest and wood products.”

Certification schemes would have to be easy to apply and flexible enough to take account of local conditions. WWF has already been instrumental in setting up the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, which has brought together producers, buyers, retailers, financial institutions and NGOs to develop practical criteria for the responsible production of palm oil.

• Biofuels are defined as those products that can be processed into liquid fuels (e.g. bioethanol, biodiesel) for either transport or burning processes.

• Under the EU Biofuels Directive adopted in 2003, biofuels must make up 2 per cent of transport fuels by 2005 and 5.75 per cent by 2010. The EC communication acknowledges that the 2005 target was not achieved — with the objectives set up by EU Member States, the biofuels share would have attained a maximun of 1.4 per cent.


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