The accountancy firm Ernst and Young in a new report has waded into the debate about carbon emissions from biofuels. Over 100 top scientists and economists have written to the European Commission calling for indirect land use change to be accounted for in EU biofuels policy making. Why? Because some biofuels do not have a neutral carbon emissions value, as assumed by the European Union, and their production will be favoured at the expense of deforestation and higher food prices.
Since 2008, EU member states have been obliged to raise the share of biofuels in the energy mix to 10% by 2020. Recent reports by the European Environment Agency and four other EU agencies have questioned whether meeting the EU’s target would cut any CO2 emissions at all. Biofuel demand is being forced upwards by EU policy. But accounting conventions are flawed in this area of research. This is because the method chosen allegedly double counts the carbon absorbed by the biofuels during their growth, and omits to count their exhaust pipe CO2 emissions.
Yet, second generation biofuels made from ‘woody’ material such as tree bark, certain crops and leaves do not compete with food production, and so have less indirect land use change impact. They are also more effective at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, although they are at present more costly. “Producers may be willing to adopt further sustainability requirements for biofuels, but only if the financial value gained by doing so outweighed the costs of adopting the requirements,” Andrew Britton, a senior manager in Ernst and Young’s Climate Change and Sustainability Services practice said.
The Centre for Accounting, Governance and Sustainability is involved in a project designed to encourage production and use of less costly sustainable biofuels to help overcome some of these recent contentions issues. Further information available from Jo Tingey-Holyoak at the Centre.