The European Commission has approved seven voluntary schemes for ensuring that rainforests are not destroyed to grow biofuel crops.
Rapeseed, a biofuel crop [File photo]
The EU aims to use at least 10 percent renewable energy in transport by 2020. Where biofuels are used to achieve this target, they must meet a set of sustainability requirements in order to receive government support or count towards mandatory national renewable energy targets.
Commissioner for Energy Günther Oettinger said, "We need to make sure that the entire biofuels' production and supply chain is sustainable. This is why we have set the highest sustainability standards in the world."
The sustainability of biofuels will be checked either by the Member States or through voluntary schemes which have been approved by the European Commission.
"The schemes recognized on the EU level today are a good example of a transparent and reliable system which ensures that these high standards are met," Oettinger said on Tuesday.
In practice this means that biofuels made of crops grown on land that once was rainforest or natural grassland with a unique ecosystem cannot be considered as sustainable.
Approved biofuels cannot be produced from areas which have a high biodiversity value, such as protected areas, or from areas that store a high amount of carbon, such as forests or peatlands.
In addition, the greenhouse gas emissions over the whole production chain need to be at least 35 percent lower compared to fossil fuels. That threshold will increase over time, Oettinger said.
Companies can choose whether to demonstrate compliance with these sustainability requirements through national systems or by joining a voluntary scheme which is recognized by the Commission.
When the Commission has thoroughly checked a scheme against the sustainability requirements and is satisfied that it adequately covers the sustainability requirements of the Renewable Energy Directive, it will give its recognition for five years.
Such a scheme verifies where and how the biofuels are produced. If the rules of the voluntary scheme have been met, the scheme can issue a certificate for that product.
The Commission requires that the auditors of these schemes have relevant standards in place as certified by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and are accredited by a member of the International Accreditation Forum.