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Pitfalls and Potentials the Role of Bioenergy in the EU Climate and Energy Policy Post 2020

The new European Commission, led by President Jean-Claude Juncker, has made the fightagainst global warming one of the EU’s key priorities. Two central pillars of European actionon climate change are increasing the share of energy produced from renewable sourcesand improving energy efficiency1. In October 2014, the European Council agreed on theEU 2030 targets: to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions at least 40% comparedwith 1990, to increase the share of renewable energy to at least 27% and to boost energyefficiency to at least 27% compared to projections. Nevertheless, these targets are not ambitiousenough to keep Europe on track for its 2050 decarbonisation objective or to drivetransformational change in Europe’s energy system. We urge the Commission to develop legislative proposals that will ensure that these "minimum"targets are exceeded and consider raising the targets. Reducing the demand forenergy will be essential to achieve a sustainable, renewable energy system. The low renewableenergy target that has been set means it is even more important that investments forrenewable energy are directed towards those sustainable renewable energy sources thathave been proven to deliver real carbon emission reductions. To provide context: bioenergyis already a major source of renewable energy in Europe. Member States plan to keep usingbioenergy to meet over half of their EU renewable energy targets and to meet almost theentire 10% target for the transport sector2; both set for 2020. In 2020, 15% of bioenergy isexpected to be consumed in the electricity sector and 65% in the heating sector. Threequarters of this biomass already come from forestry3. Bioenergy can play a role in mitigating climate change by replacing fossil fuels, particularly insectors where electricity produced by renewable sources such as wind and solar is difficult.But at the same time, it must be taken into account that bioenergy is a source of carbonemissions and can cause a number of other undesirable environmental and social impacts,such as biodiversity loss. Moreover, the rapidly increasing demand for biomass for energyproduction adds to the demand for land and forests, which are already used by other sectorssuch as food, materials and fibre. The European Commission has been slow to acknowledgethe problematic aspects of increasing bioenergy use. However, it has recognised that “animproved biomass policy will also be necessary to maximise the resource efficient use ofbiomass in order to deliver robust and verifiable greenhouse gas savings and to allow for faircompetition between the various uses of biomass resources”4 as part of the EU’s 2030 Climateand Energy Framework. The Commission communication on the Energy Union furtherconfirmed that a renewable energy package, including a bioenergy sustainability policy forboth biomass and biofuels, will be proposed between 2015 and 20175. This paper outlines what the upcoming bioenergy sustainability policy should address, includingbiofuels, solid biomass and biogas used in the energy and transport sectors. Foremost,the policy must be embedded in EU-wide legislation, define access to financial supportand specify which forms of bioenergy can be counted towards renewable energytargets. Genuinely sustainable bioenergy can be part of a strategy that leads to 100% renewableenergy, but because its availability is limited the role it plays must also be limited.It is therefore of crucial importance that future EU policies promote sustainable bioenergyonly, as defined in the policy recommendations of this paper, and limit the use of biomassto sustainable levels within an ambitious 2030 climate and energy package.