Sustainability criteria for biofuels post 2020

AUTHORS: Ben Allen-David Baldock-Silvia Nanni-Catherine Bowyer

Europe is at key decision point in its progress to developing a low carbon economy and its approach to decarbonising its energy sector. The EU’s efforts in this area have renewed prominence on the world stage following the signing of the Paris Agreement in December 2015.

In 2020, many of the current targets for renewable energy deployment and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions saving targets, including those in the transport sector, come to an end. The debate about how to reach these targets sustainably continues to be diverse and often polarised between a range of different sectoral and Member State interests. At the same time decision makers are starting to think about the policy framework to decarbonise the EU economy beyond 2020 and particularly to 2030 triggering discussions on the most sustainable and effective routes forwards, one that involves an ever broadening suite of potential feedstocks and energy modes. There is therefore a pressing need to develop sustainable and realistic solutions to meeting the EU’s targets to 2020 and to ensure that these developments contribute to a longer-term sustainable decarbonisation trajectory to 2030.

Defining effective and workable sustainability criteria is one of the critical steps in this process. These criteria should aim to provide the necessary safeguards for the use of bioresources in Europe requested by civil society, as well as the policy and investment certainty required by industry on the supply side. They must be effective in ensuring that bioresources are used in a sustainable manner, particularly for biofuels in Europe, when contributing to long-term economic development; and operational in that they can be implemented within the current and proposed future policy framework.

This new report defines a set of effective and workable sustainability criteria for the use of biomass in the production of energy, primarily in biofuels, in the post 2020 period. The main focus is on renewable transport fuel, and thus on biofuels and bio-liquids, but many of the criteria are applicable to the wider use of biomass for energy purposes. Certain criteria already apply for this purpose but they have not been re-examined to take account an increasing range of feedstocks and competing applications as well as evolving sustainability concerns. The report aims to increase understanding in this area as well as to propose potential ways forward.

For more information on our work in this area, please contact Ben Allen (

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