RED (II) it and weep

Flickr | Erich Ferdinand

RED (II) it and weep


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When people in Brussels talk about RED II, you would be forgiven for thinking they were discussing popular culture.

Alas, it is not the moderately entertaining thriller with Bruce Willis and Helen Mirren they have in mind, but rather the Renewable Energy Directive Recast. 

Almost two years ago, the European Commission published the Recast proposal to make the EU a global leader in renewable energy and ensure that the target of making at least 27% of EU energy consumption renewable by 2030 is met.

The draft legislation promotes the use of renewable sources by setting a range of different objectives, but the critics say that one of these, namely cutting crop-based biofuels, would in fact be the beginning of the end for Europe’s strive for environmentally-friendly policy.

The decision, taken by the MEPs in October 2017, to phase-out crop-based biofuels by 2030, with their contribution to renewable energy targets capped at 7% from 2021, makes the current negotiations of RED II look to be, to say the least, challenging. Have the institutions gone too far with a particular ideology vis a vis their opposition to biofuels, or is this instead a matter of a dirty industry trying to protect its bottom line?

The Bulgarian Presidency is fast running out of time. In a turn of events that returns to the East-West split of years gone by, a group of diplomats met representatives of the Central Eastern Europe (CEE) biofuels industry to discuss the RED II proposal ahead of the next trilogue meeting on 29 May.

Having embraced their first Presidency with enthusiasm and drive, the Bulgarians have now been left in the difficult situation of trying to find a middle ground between the Commission’s drastic cut and the Parliament’s more lenient approach.

The meeting, which took place on Wednesday 23 May behind closed doors, allowed the industry representatives of both first- and second-generation biofuels companies in attendance to plead with the attachés and Parliament representatives to find a compromise solution that does not destroy a growing industry in Europe. In a groundbreaking moment for a sector where agreement is rare, the industry reps came to a joint position.

This position asserts that the current proposal would prevent the industry from continuing to be a driver for development, a driver for greenhouse gas reduction and a driver for European investment.

Should this be something that the institutions stand up and listen to? Will the meeting, in spite of its lack of transparency, have the desired effect? Can the Bulgarian Presidency get this over the line in the next five weeks? And will this meeting be the beginning of the end (finalizing a position) or will this be the start of a wholly new power dynamic?

It may not be thriller material, but RED II certainly has its share of cliffhangers for the coming months.

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