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No Summer break for bioenergy sustainability in Brussels

Material supplied by Jean-Marc Jossart, Secretary-General, European Biomass Association E-mail:


ore than a year ago, the European Commission (EC) announced that

an improved bioenergy policy will be brought to the table by the end of 2016. In order to prepare for it, the Commission organised a public consultation on sustainability last May where AEBIOM raised the voice of bioenergy players in a rather unbalanced context. Nobody is fooled; this policy could have signifi cant consequences for market players and the evolution of the sector as a whole. In the best case scenario, this policy could be an opportunity to show the exemplary commitment of the bioenergy industry to sustainability and to provide clarity and certainty to investors with a coherent and long-term framework. However, some signs indicate that certain options and scenarios under discussion do not move the industry in this direction.

While everyone would expect a quiet Summer break after the busy month of May, the EC has instead brought even more to the table during this season. Between early June and the end of July, the Commission published the fi nal reports of two studies, commissioned by DG Environment. Unfortunately, these confi rm the rather unbalanced trend taken by the EU policy debate that is focused on potential environmental risks and possible policy measures to tackle these risks, without presenting and further analysing the environmental, social and economic benefi ts of bioenergy. This approach is diffi cult to understand by many European bioenergy players, who contribute daily to reduce EU

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energy dependency and climate change mitigation. This approach also contrasts with the situation and plans of many Member States (MS) for which bioenergy is a major contributor and a reliable solution with regards to the development of renewable energy and will continue to be so.

The policy tools analysed in the study on biomass from the South-East US, which obtained the best effectiveness score can be seen as rather extreme: bioenergy cap; negative list of feedstocks; and material hierarchy requirement. This is shocking to the entire sector. The EU bioenergy industry has always been eager to demonstrate its commitment towards sustainability and is clearly in favour of an EU- harmonised policy on this subject. However, pragmatism is a must to make this policy effi cient. For example, it would be worth building on the existing EU biofuels sustainability criteria for agricultural biomass or developing a risk-based approach for forest biomass. Bioenergy represents 60% of renewable production in Europe and will continue to play an important role to reach future climate and energy goals. So far, bioenergy is the main contributor to the EU’s climate goals and we do not have a plan B. Therefore, we shouldn’t jeopardise the future of a key sector with appealing, but misleading concepts. There is, however, perhaps one piece of good news that could support the bioenergy industry’s views on sustainability. On 20 July, the Commission presented a set of measures to accelerate the shift to low-carbon emissions in all sectors of the economy in

Jean-Marc Jossart, Secretary-General of AEBIOM.

Europe. This package includes the effort-sharing regulation proposal and the LULUCF regulation proposal. The latter is addressing the question of the so-called ‘carbon neutrality’ issue, a crucial point of discussion under the sustainability fi le. The LULUCF proposal sets a system to account for biogenic emissions of biomass, as indicated by the Commission: “Emissions of biomass used in energy will be recorded and counted towards each MS’s 2030 climate commitments. This addresses the common criticism that

emissions from biomass in energy production are not currently accounted for under EU law”. This proposal is fully in line with AEBIOM’s position according to which biogenic emissions of biomass should be tackled at macro level through the LULUCF system and not in the coming EU sustainability policy. However, this is only a fi rst step as the proposals will now go to the Parliament and the Council for decision. Summer will soon be over, but the bioenergy sustainability story is not.

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