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Climate Mitigation by Biomass - Full SRU Report available in English

At the eve of the launch of the Commission Energy Package on 23rd of January 2008 the German Advisory Council reiterates ist warnings about overambitious agrofuel targets and insufficient mechanism to controll unwanted side-effects of increased global agrofuel demand.

In this advice, the Council argues that energy from biomass is a finite resource, which needs to be used carefully in order to maximize its greenhouse gas reduction impact.

Based upon a comparison of available scenarios the SRU estimates, that by 2030 no more than 10% of primary energy needs can be met by domestic sources in Germany. This assessment contradicts recent European Commission forecasts.

Those limits to growth apply, if implementation of existing legislation for nature conservation and water protection are to be fully respected and implemented. As regards some of the special impacts of bioenergy, such as grassland conversion, even stricter national and EU safeguards are needed. Since the use of bioenergies for stationary sources, such as combined heat and power generation or coal substitution, may earn in average three times more CO2-reduction than biofuels, clear-cut priorities should be set.

The overambitious national and European biofuel targets should be revised. The expected import boom requires international agreements in order to prevent direct and indirect damage to valuable tropical forests. The SRU believes, that those agreements may be achievable - but not in the short run.

The report also assesses second-generation biofuels, which may not have a significant market penetration before the end of the next decade and therefore should not be considered, when setting targets now. Furthermore, second-generation biofuels may increase productivity compared to first generation biofuels, but they do not convert the hierarchy of preferred biomass use.

The report has received considerable press coverage in German media. The full translation of the report is now available. As the Commission is about to formulate some sustainability criteria, global verification and credible enforcement only are still in there very early stages. Even strict criteria therefore will not be sufficient to ensure sustainability in the short run unless the overambitious expansion of subsidized agrofuel demand is slowed down.

Christian Simon | idw
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