HOUSE OF COMMONS
LONDON SW1A 0AA
Mr Denis Walker
Southend on Sea
Our ref: RSE8241
8th June 2011
Dear Mr Walker,
Thank you for contacting me about biofuels.
Biofuels have an important role to play in efforts to tackle climate change, if they are produced in a sustainable way, and have a part to play in promoting the security of energy supply. This role is particularly important where there is no viable alternative fuel on the horizon.
In April 2010, the Department for Transport commissioned work to determine how best biofuels should be used in different transport modes. The Government also asked the Committee on Climate Change to review the current level of ambition for renewable energy. These pieces of work are due to conclude over the coming months. The evidence gathered about the best use of biofuels across modes will inform the Government’s view of likely levels of uptake.
The renewable energy directive requires the United Kingdom, by 2020, to source 15 per cent of its overall energy, and 10 per cent of energy used in transport, from renewable sources. The related fuel quality directive requires fuel and energy suppliers, principally those providing fuel and energy for land based transport to reduce the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of the fuel, or energy that they supply by 6 per cent per unit of energy by 2020. Consultations have recently been published on proposals to implement both of these directives, setting out proposals to implement the transport requirements of the renewable energy directive through amendment of the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation.
The Government’s implementation proposals involve making new provisions for biofuels to meet the European Union biofuels sustainability criteria and introducing double certification for biofuels produced from waste, such as used cooking oil, and other feedstocks that do not compete with food production or contribute to indirect land use change. The Government aims to introduce and bring into force the relevant legislation completing the implementation of the transport elements of both directives by the end of this year.
The Department for Transport recognises that there are legitimate concerns about the sustainability of some biofuels. Biofuels are a continually developing technology and there is still scientific uncertainty about the sustainability of biofuels and their wider socio-economic impacts. Much work is under way to understand better indirect sustainability effects. I believe it is crucial that we establish strong sustainability criteria and a robust lifecycle carbon analysis to ensure first that biofuels deliver tangible greenhouse gas reductions and second, do not cause unacceptable environmental side effects in the process.
In particular, the Government takes the issue of indirect land use change seriously. The Department for Transport has recently published research on the scale of indirect land use change impacts and it is continuing to lead work on how to tackle these. The European Commission is in the process of assessing a range of opinions to address the issue of indirect land use change and the Transport Minister, Norman Baker MP, has written to the European Union Energy, Environment and Climate Commissioners to impress on them the need for an adequate and robust solution.
Once again, thank you for taking the time to write to me.
James Duddridge MP