Pitfalls and Potentials: The role of bioenergy in the EU climate and energy policy post-2020 | Bioenergy

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European Governments are increasingly relying on bioenergy as a cheap way to meet targets for renewable energy. Bioenergy represented 62 percent of the EU’s renewable energy use in 2012. But new evidence on the real climate impacts and other environmental and social impacts of bioenergy has made its use increasingly controversial. Sustainable bioenergy has a role to play in Europe’s transition to an energy system based on renewable energy and energy efficiency. However, to avoid serious negative consequences for carbon emissions, biodiversity and land conflicts, the EU should introduce four main safeguards for bioenergy use as part of the its 2030 climate and energy policies: Introduce a cap to limit the use of biomass for energy production to levels that can be sustainably supplied
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  NGO RECOMMENDATIONS PITFALLS AND POTENTIALSTHE ROLE OF BIOENERGYIN THE EU CLIMATEAND ENERGY POLICYPOST 2020  SUMMARY European Governments are increasingly relying on bioenergy as a cheap way to meet tar-gets for renewable energy. Bioenergy represented 62% of EU’s renewable energy use in 2012. But new evidence on the real climate impacts and other environmental and social impacts of bioenergy has made its use increasingly controversial.Sustainable bioenergy has a role to play in Europe’s transition to an energy system based on renewable energy and energy efficiency. However, to avoid serious negative consequences for carbon emissions, biodiversity and land conflicts, the EU should introduce four main safeguards for bioenergy use as part of the EU’s 2030 climate and energy policies: ã introduce a cap to limit the use of biomass for energy production to levels that can be sustainably supplied;ã ensure efficient and optimal use of biomass resources, in line with the principle of cascading use;ã include correct carbon accounting for biomass;ã introduce comprehensive binding sustainability criteria.  INTRODUCTION The new European Commission, led by President Jean-Claude Juncker, has made the fight against global warming one of the EU’s key priorities. Two central pillars of European action on climate change are increasing the share of energy produced from renewable sources and improving energy efficiency 1 . In October 2014, the European Council agreed on the EU 2030 targets: to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions at least 40% compared with 1990, to increase the share of renewable energy to at least 27% and to boost energy efficiency to at least 27% compared to projections. Nevertheless, these targets are not am-bitious enough to keep Europe on track for its 2050 decarbonisation objective or to drive transformational change in Europe’s energy system.We urge the Commission to develop legislative proposals that will ensure that these min-imum targets are exceeded and consider raising the targets. Reducing the demand for energy will be essential to achieve a sustainable, renewable energy system. The low renew-able energy target that has been set means it is even more important that investments for renewable energy are directed towards those sustainable renewable energy sources that have been proven to deliver real carbon emission reductions. To provide context: bioenergy is already a major source of renewable energy in Europe. Member States plan to keep using bioenergy to meet over half of their EU renewable energy targets and to meet almost the entire 10% target for the transport sector 2 ; both set for 2020. In 2020, 15% of bioenergy is expected to be consumed in the electricity sector and 65% in the heating sector. Three quarters of this biomass already come from forestry 3 .Bioenergy can play a role in mitigating climate change by replacing fossil fuels, particularly in sectors where electricity produced by renewable sources such as wind and solar is difficult. But at the same time, it must be taken into account that bioenergy is a source of carbon emissions and can cause a number of other undesirable environmental and social impacts, such as biodiversity loss. Moreover, the rapidly increasing demand for biomass for energy production adds to the demand for land and forests, which are already used by other sectors such as food, materials and fibre. The European Commission has been slow to acknowledge the problematic aspects of increasing bioenergy use. However, it has recognised that “an improved biomass policy will also be necessary to maximise the resource efficient use of biomass in order to deliver robust and verifiable greenhouse gas savings and to allow for fair competition between the various uses of biomass resources” 4  as part of the EU’s 2030 Cli-mate and Energy Framework. The Commission communication on the Energy Union further confirmed that a renewable energy package, including a bioenergy sustainability policy for both biomass and biofuels, will be proposed between 2015 and 2017 5 .This paper outlines what the upcoming bioenergy sustainability policy should address, in-cluding biofuels, solid biomass and biogas used in the energy and transport sectors. Fore-most, the policy must be embedded in EU-wide legislation, define access to financial sup-port and specify which forms of bioenergy can be counted towards renewable energy targets. Genuinely sustainable bioenergy can be part of a strategy that leads to 100% re-newable energy, but because its availability is limited the role it plays must also be limited. It is therefore of crucial importance that future EU policies promote sustainable bioenergy only, as defined in the policy recommendations of this paper, and limit the use of biomass to sustainable levels within an ambitious 2030 climate and energy package. 1    A New Start for Europe: My Agenda for Jobs, Growth, Fairness and Democratic Change, Political guidelines for next European Commission . 2  At the time of writing, the way to meet the 10% transport target was under legislative review, because of concerns linked with indirect land use change. 3  European Commission SWD (2014) 259 final. 4  European Commission (2014),  A policy framework for climate and energy in the period from 2020 to 2030 , COM (2014) 15. 5  http://ec.europa.eu/priorities/energy-union/docs/energyunion_en.pdf.
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