Article | Rotterdam, 12 March 2021

Without biofuels, climate targets 2030 remain an illusion

A glance at the various election programs offers little hope for the time being when it comes to sufficiently reducing CO2-emissions. Despite all the good intentions, the climate objectives remain far out of sight. Not for nothing did European government leaders make stricter agreements at the end of last year: emissions must be reduced by 55 percent in 2030 compared to 1990. The greatest gains can be made in the mobility sector, which is the only sector in Europe where emissions have risen since that base year. Clear policies on the use of renewable fuels are crucial for this.
Bart-Willem ten Cate from FinCo Fuel gives a glance at the various election programs of 2021. Without biofuels, 2030 climate targets remain an illusion

The electric vehicle fleet in the Netherlands currently consists of around 200 thousand vehicles, out of a total of approximately 9 million passenger cars. That is 8.8 million fuel tanks that we can, actually must, use to reduce emissions in the mobility sector. Not to mention freight transport, where electrical developments are much less advanced. By using renewable rather than fossil fuels in as many of these millions of vehicles as possible, millions of tonnes ofCO2-emissions can be reduced. Moreover, this would be done in an affordable way, so that everyone can participate - and not just the electric elite.

The lack of attention within political parties for renewable fuels is a missed opportunity, especially considering the advice that the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) issued last December. After extensive research, the PBL concluded that biofuels have an important role to play in the climate-neutral, circular economy of the (near) future. Provided that clear sustainability criteria are met, the advice was accompanied by an appropriate leaflet.

Those criteria are there. The debate on biofuels for transport in recent decades has led to far-reaching regulation, such as the European Renewable Energy Directive of 2018. So, as far as that condition is concerned, all the signs are green. And the key is to make optimal use of existing products and infrastructures to reduce emissions in the mobility sector. With more intensive use of renewable fuels from waste and residual streams. Because however important and hopeful the emergence of, for example, electric driving is, it is simply not happening fast enough. There is no time to lose: we desperately need every possible tonne of CO2-savings. And we must use all available energy carriers to achieve this, not only in road transport but also in other transport sectors such as shipping.

How can the next cabinet, together with market parties, ensure this? It could start by raising the annual obligation: the percentage of renewable energy that companies supplying fuels in the Netherlands must meet. We believe it is possible to replace some 30 per cent of all fossil fuels in the mobility sector with a renewable alternative by 2030. Indeed, much higher than the 13.5 percent the government is currently aiming for. This increased ambition will result in a saving of about 5 million tonnes of CO2. To make that number more concrete: emissions from the mobility sector in the chosen base year of 1990 were 32 million tonnes. In the climate agreement, it was agreed to reduce this to no more than 25 million tonnes in 2030. By embracing the use of renewable fuels a lot more firmly, we are therefore taking huge steps.

Above all, it is important to provide market parties with clarity through clear policy choices and thus create a more reliable investment climate. This is not only good for the climate targets, but also for the Netherlands as a whole. We run the risk of losing the battle. Both the battle for specific renewable raw materials, which will become increasingly important in the coming decades, and the battle for our international economic status. That would be a shame, because we have such a good starting position. Let's make sure we are in the lead group in the climate-neutral, circular economy that will take shape in the coming decades.

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