“Fuels of the future”: Biofuel industry blames Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke for missed climate protection targets in the transport sector

25 January 2023

The Federal Ministry for the Environment, supported by Federal Minister of Agriculture, Cem Özdemir, risks derailing climate change mitigation in the transport sector; the climate protection targets are becoming unachievable.

During the two days of the 20th Conference on Renewable Mobility, everything revolved around new trends and potential uses of renewable fuels. The five German biofuel industry associations organising the event welcomed 700 participants from 33 countries to the conference.

The conference participants agree: Alternative drive options, such as biodiesel, bioethanol and biomethane, are in great demand. The challenge of mitigating climate change means e-fuels produced from wind, solar and bioenergy will also play a major role in transport-sector measures to protect the climate. As the Chair of the German Bioenergy Association (BBE), Artur Auernhammer, noted at the start of the conference, sustainable biofuels saved over 11 million tonnes of CO₂ in 2021. He emphasised that sustainable certified biofuels make a vital contribution to efficient, immediately impactful climate change mitigation in the transport sector and will continue to do so in future. With an eye to positions adopted by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, the BBE Chair underlined that a comprehensive strategy for alternative fuels and drives is now crucial.

Conference participants from across the renewable mobility sector conveyed a key shared message, clearly rejecting the Federal Environment Ministry’s draft bill on gradual phase-out of biofuels from cultivated biomass that was announced parallel to the conference. The initiative, developed under the aegis of Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke and supported by Federal Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir, stands in stark contradiction to the greenhouse gas reduction gap in the transport sector that needs to be closed, as highlighted at the conference. Implementing the envisaged gradual lowering of the upper limit for biofuels from cultivated biomass would entrench the sector’s failure to meet its targets, particularly as the share of renewable electricity

is declining and it will take years for legislation aimed at more rapid development of this energy source to have an impact. One take-home message from the conference is that biofuels from cultivated biomass have an essential bridging function. They make the largest real-world contribution to greenhouse gas reduction, as they are not susceptible to inappropriate double-offsetting, in contrast to e-mobility and hydrogen. Ramping up of e-mobility is now stalling. After a short holding period, most vehicles subsidised with taxpayers’ money are sold on to customers abroad.

Experts from the entire renewable mobility value chain therefore warn emphatically that the planned legislative amendments would trigger massive uncertainty throughout the renewable mobility sector, as well as diverting entire trade flows. The Environment Ministry’s planned amendments at the same time send a warning to investors keen to invest in biofuels from residues and waste. Implementing these plans would set back climate change mitigation in the transport sector by years, despite the pressing need to slash greenhouse gas emissions rapidly. Following on from the failure to meet the 2021 target set for the transport sector in the Climate Protection Act, a significant overshoot in greenhouse gas emissions is also forecast for 2022.

The key message is that the conference is opposed to the legislative amendments announced and calls for reliable biofuel policy and for all available options to be used to mitigate climate change. Biodiesel, bioethanol and biomethane form the sustainable backbone of greenhouse gas reduction in the mobility sector, as conference participants underlined. That makes it essential to make consistent use of sustainable biofuels and other renewable fuels to ensure effective climate change mitigation in the transport sector.

The experts also recommend adopting more ambitious statutory climate protection targets for the transport sector. There are already commercially available biofuels and synthetic fuels that can be deployed. That also makes discussions on prioritising either e-fuels or biofuels superfluous. Both technologies must continue to be promoted and utilised; each has its own particular strengths and innovative biofuels will continue to be crucial in future too. As a common consensus, sustainable mobility must be made easier and more user-friendly by expanding charging infrastructure and enhancing availability of sustainable biofuels and renewable fuels in rural areas and for fleets.

Over 700 participants from 33 countries accepted the invitation from the five German biofuel industry associations to find out more about the transport transition options and low-CO₂ mobility at the two-day international conference “Fuels of the Future”. The associations who organised the conference would like to thank all partners and participants for the successful conference and gripping discussions. The 21st International Conference on Renewable Mobility “Fuels of the Future 2024” is planned as an in-person event on 22nd and 23rd January 2024 in Berlin.

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