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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

biofuels: what they really really want

Sorry for yet another post on biofuels... but in the light of comments on the last one it's worth clarifying what the Government are saying.

They want to renegotiate two things about the biofuel target:

Ruth Kelly said yesterday:

The Government believe that the EU target of 10 per cent. renewable transport fuels by 2020 can remain an overall objective, but subject to clear conditions. I would like to set those out.

First, the EU-level sustainability criteria currently being negotiated must address indirect, as well as direct, effects on land use.

Secondly, the 10 per cent. target must be subject to rigorous review in the light of the emerging evidence, so that we can make an informed decision at EU level in 2013-14 about whether the target can continue.

With a bit of sleight-of-hand she also described this as a "non binding" target in answer to a question by David Heathcoat-Amory.

He asked:

Given that the decision on the draft EU directive will be taken by majority voting, what confidence does she have that her new conditionality and different target will be accepted, as the directive is, after all, mandatory?

Ruth Kelly said:

I said that we should be arguing for a non-binding target, but a target of 10 per cent. conditional on certain elements: first, second generation biofuels should emerge; and secondly, unsustainable land use change should be avoided and sustainability safeguards adopted.

I said that we should review the evidence in 2011-12, and again later, to confirm those targets.
That is an approach for which we shall negotiate very hard in Europe. I believe that it is beginning to gain currency in France and Italy, and I hope that other countries will also see the merits of adopting a conditional rather than a binding target.

Now that's a bit dodgy. There is a big difference between a "non-binding target" and a binding target which is subject to a "review" (no matter what your EU problem is - a "review" is always the answer).

Also, how would you work out what the "indirect effect" of biofuels is? How will this be agreed?

It's interesting also that France and Italy (potentially among the biggest EU beneficiaries) are said to be in favour of the UK idea. Sounds fishy.

Fundamentally it is desperate stuff: an attempt to muddy the water. Do we really believe that if this EU target had not been agreed, the UK would be arguing for it? Not for a second.

But that's the problem with today's EU. It seems that mistakes cannot be corrected.

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