Department for Transport
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Adonis sets out more cautious approach to Biofuels
Transport Minister Andrew Adonis has today set out plans to take a more cautious approach to biofuels, as part of the Government's response to concerns about the indirect environmental and social impacts of producing them.
He published a consultation taking forward key findings from the Gallagher Review, including the proposal that the rate of increase of the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) be slowed to reach 5% in 2013-14 rather than in 2010-11.
At the same time he dedicated a further £6 million to research being conducted by the Carbon Trust to accelerate the development of advanced sustainable biofuels technologies.
Andrew Adonis said:
"Everyone agrees that to tackle climate change we must develop new and cleaner fuels. But we are clear that biofuels will only have a role to play in this if they are sustainably produced.
"That is why the Government commissioned Professor Gallagher to examine the indirect impacts of biofuels, and we have accepted his recommendation to amend but not abandon our approach.
"We need to take a more cautious approach to biofuels and today's consultation sets out our options, as well as dedicating a further £6 million to helping ensure that second generation biofuels are truly sustainable."
Tom Delay, Chief Executive Carbon Trust, added:
"This funding will help in the urgent search for low carbon and sustainable alternatives to oil by accelerating the development of two advanced technologies; pyrolysis-based conversion and algae as a sustainable feedstock."
In February, the Government commissioned Professor Ed Gallagher, Chair of the Renewable Fuels Agency, to lead a review of the latest evidence on biofuels. He found that "there is a future for a sustainable biofuels industry" and that by 2020 "biofuels have the potential to deliver annual global greenhouse gas savings of approximately 338 - 371 million tonnes of carbon dioxide".
However, he also stated that there is a strong need for further evidence and monitoring to determine the sustainability and wider impacts of biofuels. As part of this he made a number of recommendations for the future of biofuels, which were accepted by the Government.
Today's consultation takes these forward by proposing that:
* The rate of increase of the RTFO be slowed to 0.5% per annum, taking the level to 5% in 2013-14 rather than in 2010-11 as is the case currently;
* Two new eligible fuels - biobutanol and hydrogenated renewable diesel - are added to the list of renewable fuels eligible under the RTFO;
* We continue to support the EU target of 10% renewable transport fuels by 2020, but that this is conditional on evidence showing that it is being delivered sustainably and without significant impacts on food prices;
* Government presses for the 10% target to be kept under regular review in the light of the emerging evidence;
* That the sustainability criteria for biofuels, currently being negotiated, should address indirect, as well as direct, effects on land use;
* We work to establish international standards and controls, which reflect the international nature of the biofuels industry.
The consultation closes on December 17 and all views will be considered.
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. The Gallagher Review was commissioned on 21 February 2008. It examined the wider social and environmental impacts of biofuels, in particular it looked at the indirect impacts of different forms of biofuel production, in order to inform the development of both the UK and EU's policies.
2. It considered recent evidence on the indirect or "displacement" impacts of biofuel production, both within the EU and internationally. It also looked at the extent to which the demand for biofuels - as opposed to other pressures - was likely to put pressure on available land resources in the period to 2020, as well as considering the likely impact of biofuel policies on international food commodity prices in the period to 2020.
3. The key findings of the review, published in July, were that:
* Government should "amend but not abandon its biofuel policy";
* biofuels can play a role in tackling climate change and "there is a future for a sustainable biofuels industry";
* by 2020 "biofuels have the potential to deliver annual global greenhouse gas savings of approximately 338 - 371 million tonnes of carbon dioxide";
* however, there is a strong need for further evidence and monitoring to determine the sustainability and wider impacts of biofuels;
* there is a risk that the uncontrolled expansion and use of biofuels could drive unsustainable land use change. In turn this might lead to net increases in greenhouse gas emissions and potentially contribute to rising food prices;
* current Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation levels are right but we should be cautious about how fast further increases are brought in;
* a moratorium on biofuels should be rejected - "a moratorium will reduce the ability of the biofuels industry to invest in new technologies or transform the sourcing of its feedstock to the more sustainable supplies necessary to create a truly sustainable industry. It will make it significantly more difficult for the potential of biofuels to be realised";
* At the EU level a 10%, by energy content, renewable transport fuel target is not presently justified by the scientific evidence, but could be possible if a number of important conditions are fulfilled, eg. sufficient controls on land-use change being enforced globally as part of a new climate agreement, and new evidence providing further confidence that the target can be met sustainably.
4. When responding to the Review, the Government accepted all its key findings and committed to consulting in the near future on taking them forward. That is the purpose of the consultation document published today.
5. For a copy of Professor Gallagher's report please visit: http://www.dft.gov.uk/rfa/
6. For a copy of the consultation published today please visit: http://www.dft.gov.uk/consultations/open/rftoorder/
7. The £6 million announced today will fund Carbon Trust's "Advanced Bioenergy Directed Research Acelerator". It will be delivered over two financial years (£3m per annum) and is intended to accelerate the development of two advanced sustainable biofuel technologies: algae as a sustainable feedstock and pyrolysis-based conversion. Pyrolosis is a means of recovering the energy from various forms of waste, a potential source of low-cost fuels with low system greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
8. For further information on the Carbon Trust's research please visit: http://www.carbontrust.co.uk/technology/directedresearch/advanced_bioenergy_accelerators.htm
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