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UK Government proposes new measures to encourage sustainable Biofuels



22nd June, 2007

UK Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander

UK Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander underlined the Government's commitment to sustainable biofuels yesterday, as he launched a consultation on an environmental reporting system for this type of fuel and a package of measures to complement the reporting requirement.

The consultation is a key part of work on the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO), which means that by 2010, 5% of all the fuel sold on UK forecourts (petrol stations) should come from biofuels. This is expected to save 1 million tonnes of carbon a year, the equivalent of taking 1 million cars off the road.

In addition to the consultation, the UK Secretary of State yesterday announced that:

* from April 2010 the UK Government aims to reward biofuels under the RTFO according to the amount of carbon they save. This will be subject to compatibility with EU and WTO requirements and future consultation on the environmental and economic impacts;

* from April 2011 the Government aims to reward biofuels under the RTFO only if they meet appropriate sustainability standards. This will be subject to the same provisos as above and subject to the development of such standards for the relevant feedstocks.

* the UK Government will ask the RTFO Administrator to report every three months on the effectiveness of the RTFO's environmental reporting system, and on the carbon and sustainability effects of the RTFO;

* the Government intends to set challenging targets for: the level of greenhouse gas savings they expect to see from biofuels used to meet the RTFO, the proportion of biofuels from feedstock grown to recognised sustainability standards and the amount of information they expect to be included in sustainability reports;

* the UK Government has asked the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership to explore the feasibility of a voluntary labelling scheme, allowing responsible retailers to show that the biofuels they supply are genuinely sustainable. Any scheme would need to be compatible with WTO rules.

Douglas Alexander said, yeterday:

"Biofuels present an opportunity to address the climate change impact of transport. But we must ensure appropriate safeguards are in place. The UK is leading international debate on this issue. We are one of the first countries to develop a detailed methodology to allow transport fuel suppliers to report in detail on the carbon and sustainability impacts of their biofuels. And the comprehensive package of new measures we are proposing today only strengthens this global leadership role, by making clear our determination to put in place a mandatory sustainability framework for biofuels, putting us at the forefront globally of tackling this important issue."

To receive certificates under the RTFO scheme from April 2008, it is intended that transport fuel suppliers will have to complete a report on the carbon savings offered by their biofuels, as well as on the wider sustainability impacts associated with them. The RTFO Administrator will publish information on the environmental impacts of the RTFO. The consultation sets out the detail of the proposed requirements for these reports.

The consultation closes on 13th September. The RTFO Administrator will publish the final version of the reporting requirements as soon as possible after the RTFO Order has been made.

Our approach will be piloted with a number of transport fuel suppliers alongside the public consultation.


  • The UK Government announced the introduction of the RTFO in November 2005, saying that "obligated companies would be required to report on the level of carbon savings achieved and on the sustainability of their supplies."
  • Areas to be covered in the consultation are:
    * The scope and format of monthly and annual reports
    * The verification requirements
    * The default values to be used to calculate the carbon savings offered by different biofuels when precise data is not available
  • The targets proposed are:
    * 50% of biofuel feedstocks should meet a qualifying sustainability standard* in 2009/10, rising to 80% in 2010/11
    * The fuel supplied should have an annual greenhouse gas saving of 40% over fossil fuels in 2008/09, 50% in 2009/10 and 60% in 2010/11
    * Transport fuel suppliers should be able to complete, with known data, 35% of the relevant data fields within the monthly reports in 2008/09, 65% in 2009/10, and 80% in 2010/11
  • The Obligation is expected to start in April 2008. It will be set at 2.5% in 2008/9, then 3.75% in 2009/10, and 5% in 2010/11.
  • Biofuels are fuels made from renewable sources, typically crops such as oilseed rape or wheat. The crops used to grow the fuel are known as feedstocks. They save carbon because the crops absorb carbon dioxide as they grow. There is currently no internationally agreed methodology to measure carbon savings and sustainability and the UK is a leader in this field. They are working with the European Union and other international bodies to develop standards to ensure the sustainable supply of biofuels across the EU.
  • The consultation documents, including further information on the proposed targets are available from the UK's Department for Transport
    * A large number of existing agri-environment and social accountability schemes have been benchmarked against a set of core environmental and social principles, to allow the Government to propose a list of "qualifying standards" for RTFO purposes. These are standards that deliver an acceptable level of sustainability assurance. The consultation document suggests that the following standards should initially count as "qualifying standards", although the list will be revised as suitable new standards are developed for different feedstocks:
    Linking Environment and Farming Marque
    Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil
    Sustainable Agriculture Network/Rainforest Alliance
    Basel Criteria for Soy
    Forest Stewardship Council
    Social Accountability 8000

Other Alternate Fuel content: here.

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