I would like to update the House on the Government’s progress against commitments set out by my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Ruth Kelly), in her statement on biofuels on 7 July 2008, responding to ‘The Gallagher Review of the indirect effects of biofuels production’.
As part of that response to the Gallagher Review, the Government made a commitment that the EU target of 10 per cent. renewable transport fuels by 2020 could remain an overall objective but that it should be subject to certain conditions, namely: that the sustainability criteria applicable to the target should address the indirect as well as direct effects on land use; and that the 10 per cent. target be subject to rigorous review to take account of the emerging evidence.
The 10 per cent. target is part of the renewable energy directive due to be approved by the European Parliament this week and adopted by the Council in the New Year, following negotiations between the Council, the Commission and the European Parliament.
The principle of a rigorous review of the 10 per cent. target received strong support from the Council and the European Parliament and the directive put forward for approval requires the Commission to, by 2014, review the cost-efficiency and sustainability of the target and, if appropriate on the basis of that review, submit proposals to the Council and the European Parliament to take action.
The UK Government have led the debate in Europe on the need to address the indirect effects of biofuels on land use and so ensure that the renewable energy directive will include sustainability criteria that address these indirect effects. The directive put forward for approval requires the Commission to, by 31 December 2010, submit a report to the Council and the European Parliament on the impact of indirect land use change on greenhouse gas emissions. This report shall, where appropriate, be accompanied by a proposal for a methodology through which the greenhouse gas emissions caused by indirect land use change will be taken into account, with a view to the Council and European Parliament endeavouring to agree this methodology by 2012.
This recognises the fact that the scientific evidence around the indirect effects of biofuels is not yet certain enough to develop such a methodology now. However, the pace of research into indirect land use change has been accelerating rapidly. The UK Government themselves are working with international partners and scientific experts to develop a biofuels research programme which will aim to address gaps in the evidence around the indirect effects of biofuels and through this group we will help ensure that development of any methodology to take into account indirect land use change is based on the best available science.