Biofrontiers: Responsible innovation for tomorrow's liquid fuels

Published: 2016.10.14

Pete Harrison (European Climate Foundation), Chris Malins and Stephanie Searle (ICCT)

The Biofrontiers project set out to shed light on the challenges associated with advanced alternative low-carbon fuels, bringing together eleven stakeholders from both industry and civil society to explore the conditions and boundaries under which such fuels might be developed in a sustainable manner. The project explored supply chains for low-carbon fuels, ranging from wastes and residues from households, forestry and agriculture to energy crops grown on land with low economic and environmental values. It analyzed the risks that investors face when developing these fuels and how policymakers might act to enable those investments. And it examined sustainability issues that determine how far this finite resource can be used responsibly.

Based on more than a year of exchanges, this synthesis report presents five recommendations for a 2030 European policy for transport fuels:

  • Regarding Sustainability - Sustainability-certainty and investment-certainty go hand in hand. Energy and climate policy for 2030 should ensure deep cuts to lifecycle emissions and safeguard food, soil, water and biodiversity resources. Incentives should be linked to the availability of sustainable feedstocks. Site-specific assessments are needed to create confidence in feedstock supply chains.
  • Regarding Carbon-Intensity - EU energy policy for 2030 should focus on fuels with low carbon intensity and should phase out support for biofuels that do not deliver on climate goals. Support for advanced alternative fuels should be prioritized. Performance-based targets – with life-cycle analysis of direct and indirect emissions – offer one option for rewarding the greatest net greenhouse gas savings.
  • Regarding Incentives - With robust sustainability assurance, there is a compelling case for strong advanced alternative fuel incentives. This should take the form of a realistic and responsible binding target for fuel suppliers for advanced alternative fuels in 2025, with a higher target-range set for 2030. A higher target-range could be set for 2035 during a 2025 review.
  • Regarding Competing Uses - Policymakers should be aware of other objectives in forestry, climate, agriculture and waste management. Where there may be competition between fuel production and other waste management options, policy should “encourage the options that deliver the best overall environmental outcome,” as required by the Waste Framework Directive.
  • Regarding Innovation - Any 2030 policy framework should be designed with the flexibility to allow novel fuel technologies and different feedstocks to be eligible for support as they arrive on the market, subject to a life cycle analysis and sustainability assessments.