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New JRC methodology to verify biofuel sustainability

How does Europe measure the success of its environmental measures? Part of the answer lies in an important new tool developed by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) to ensure that European biofuels and bioliquids meet top global standards. The methodology is ...

How does Europe measure the success of its environmental measures? Part of the answer lies in an important new tool developed by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) to ensure that European biofuels and bioliquids meet top global standards. The methodology is in line with Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommendations for national greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories and is a key factor in Europe's overall sustainability scorecard. Adopted by the European Commission in June 2010, the system quantifies changes to carbon amounts in soils and biomass when land use changes as a result of biofuels production. It will also help authorities to determine if biofuels (both within the EU as well as those imported to the region) help to lower GHG emissions and come from sustainable sources. The increased use of energy from renewable sources, along with energy savings and increased energy efficiency, are all important measures needed to reduce GHG emissions within the EU and to comply with the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. But calculating GHG savings is a complex process. Measurement systems must take several issues into consideration, such as fertilisers or pesticides used in biofuel production, and the fuel used by tractors and other vehicles during production. Under EU legislation, Member States are bound to meet national targets for renewable energy. Directive 2009/28/EC states that biofuels must deliver GHG savings of at least 35% (compared to fossil fuels), a figure which will rise to 50% in 2017 and to 60% (for biofuels from new plants) in 2018. The new methodology is one way for Europe to measure its progress towards achieving these targets. The system was also used by the European Commission to decide on its guidelines for land carbon stocks calculation. Indeed, the JRC has provided considerable technical and scientific support to the Commission, including in the design of practical measures and procedures for calculating the GHG emissions of various biofuel and bioliquid production options, and in determining the global data layers on climate regions and soil types (in accordance with IPCC specifications). Industry, governments and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are now being encouraged by the Commission to establish voluntary schemes to certify biofuel sustainability and receive EU recognition. Among the requirements is the recruitment of the services of an independent auditor to check the entire production chain. The Commission has produced guidelines to ensure that this auditing process is non-fraudulent. The JRC is the European Commission's own in-house research arm. It is represented by seven institutes in five countries. JRC Director-General Roland Schenkel recently launched the JRC Strategy 2010-2020 wherein the JRC sets out its new vision to become a trusted provider of science-based policy options to policy makers throughout the EU and to address key societal challenges.

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