Biofuels are liquid or gaseous transport fuels, such as biodiesel and bioethanol, made from biomass. They serve as a renewable alternative to fossil fuels in the EU's transport sector, helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the EU's security of supply.
By 2030, the EU aims to increase the share of renewable energy in transport to at least 14%, including a minimum share of 3.5% of advanced biofuels. EU countries are required to set out an obligation on fuel suppliers that ensures the achievement of this target.
The revised Renewable Energy Directive (EU) 2018/2001 (RED II) establishes an overarching policy for the promotion and use of energy from renewable sources in the EU. It also reinforces the sustainability criteria of bioenergy through different provisions, including the negative direct impact that the production of biofuels may have due to indirect land use change (ILUC).
While biofuels are important in helping the EU meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets, biofuel production typically takes place on cropland that was previously used for agriculture, to grow food or feed. Since this agricultural production is still necessary, biofuel production may lead to the extension of agricultural land into non-crop land, possibly including areas with high carbon stock, such as forests, wetlands and peatlands. This process is known as indirect land use change (ILUC). As it may cause the release of CO2 stored in trees and soil, ILUC poses a risk to the greenhouse gas savings that result from increased production of biofuels.
To address the issue of ILUC, the revised directive introduces a new approach by setting limits on high ILUC-risk biofuels, bioliquids and biomass fuels with a significant expansion in land with high carbon stock. These limits affect the amount of these fuels that EU countries can count towards their national targets when calculating the overall national share of renewables and the share of renewables in transport. EU countries will still be able to use (and import) fuels covered by these limits, but they will not be able to include these volumes when calculating the extent to which they have fulfilled their renewable targets. These limits impose a freeze equivalent to 2019 levels for the period 2021-2023, which will gradually decrease from the end of 2023 to zero by 2030. The directive also introduces an exemption to these limits for biofuels, bioliquids and biomass fuels certified as low ILUC-risk.
For the implementation of this approach, as required by the directive, the Commission adopted the Delegated Regulation on indirect land-use change ((EU) 2019/807), in which it lays down provisions to determine the high ILUC-risk feedstock for which a significant expansion of the production area into land with high carbon stock is observed. It also sets out criteria to certify low ILUC-risk biofuels, bioliquids and biomass fuels.
The Commission adopted in 2019 an accompanying report on the status of production expansion of relevant food and feed crops worldwide (COM/2019/142), based on the best available scientific data. It provides information that EU countries can use jointly with the criteria set out in the delegated act in order to identify high ILUC-risk fuels and certify low ILUC-risk fuels.
Furthermore, specific rules and methodological guidance for certification of low ILUC-risk biofuels, bioliquids and biomass fuels have been included in the Implementing Regulation on sustainability certification proposed by the Commission in line with Article 30(8) of the revised directive. The Implementing Regulation received on 10 March 2022 a positive vote by the RED II Committee on the sustainability of biofuels, bioliquids and biomass fuels, and will be adopted in the second half of 2022.
Quality standards for biofuels
Working together with the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN), the EU aims to develop and improve the technical quality standards of biofuels and biofuel blends for vehicle engines. The practical work is carried out by CEN Technical Committee 19, consisting of experts from the automotive and fuel industries, biofuels producers, and other stakeholders.
Reports on emissions from cultivation of raw materials for use in biofuels
According to Article 30 (2-4) of Directive (EU) 2018/2001, EU countries or third countries are required to submit to the Commission reports including a list of those areas on their territory classified as NUTS2 or at a more disaggregated NUTS level (equivalent size for territories outside the EU), where the typical greenhouse gas emissions from cultivation of agricultural raw materials could be expected to be lower than or equal to the emissions reported under the heading ‘Disaggregated default values for cultivation’ in part D of Annex V to the directive, accompanied by a description of the method and data used to establish that list.
These reports can be found at
- Pre-ILUC Directive NUTS2 reports of cultivation emissions
- Overview table of pre-ILUC Directive NUTS2 cultivation emissions values
According to these provisions, the Commission may decide by means of an implementing act that reports submitted by EU countries and by countries outside the EU contain accurate data for the purposes of measuring the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the cultivation of biofuel and bioliquid feedstocks typically produced in those areas. These reports can be found at Post-ILUC Directive NUTS2 or equivalent reports of cultivation emissions.
The Implementing Acts formally recognising the above post-ILUC NUTS2 or equivalent reports of cultivation emissions can be found at
- Recognition of report of GHG emissions from the cultivation of canola oilseed in Australia
- Recognition of report of GHG emissions from the cultivation of canola oilseed in Canada | Corrigendum
- Recognition of report of GHG emissions from the cultivation of rape oilseed in Croatia
- Delegated Regulation on Indirect Land-Use Change (EU) 2019/807
- Renewable Energy Directive (EU) 2018/2001
- Directive to reduce indirect land use change for biofuels and bioliquids ((EU)2015/1513)
- Commission Regulation (EU) No 1307/2014 on defining the criteria and geographic ranges of highly biodiverse grassland
- Decision on information about biofuels and bioliquids to be submitted by economic operators to Member States (2011/13/EU)
- Decision on guidelines for the calculation of land carbon stocks (2010/335/EU)
- Fuel Quality Directive (2009/30/EC)