European Court of Auditors slams European Commission for weakness in biofuel certification

July 21, 2016 |

In Luxembourg, weaknesses in the system of certifying sustainable biofuels could undermine the basis of the EU’s 2020 targets for renewable energy in transport, according to a new report from the European Court of Auditors.

Under the Renewable Energy Directive, EU Member States can only use biofuels certified as sustainable to reach their 2020 target of sourcing ten per cent of the energy in transport from renewable sources. Most biofuels placed on the EU market are certified through voluntary schemes recognised by the European Commission. But the auditors concluded that the schemes suffer from weaknesses in the Commission’s recognition procedure and in its supervision.

The auditors found that the Commission did not require schemes to verify whether biofuel production carried risks such as conflict over land ownership, forced or child labour, poor working conditions for farmers and dangers to health and safety. The schemes’ assessments did not cover the impact on biofuel sustainability of indirect landuse change (when more land is cultivated for food to make up for crops used in biofuel production). The auditors accept that assessing indirect landuse change presents technical difficulties, but without this information the relevance of the certification system is undermined.

The Commission gave recognition to schemes lacking procedures to ensure that biofuels did indeed come from waste or that feedstocks fulfilled environmental requirements, say the auditors. Some schemes were not transparent enough or were governed by only a few members, which increased the risk of conflict of interest as well as prevented effective communication with other stakeholders.

The Commission does not supervise the operations of voluntary schemes and can therefore not be sure that these actually apply the standards on which they have been certified or detect infringements of the rules.

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Category: Policy

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