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Green Energy

DW Staff (ls)December 5, 2008

The European Union is set to promote green energy after finally resolving a long-running conflict over biofuels. Demanding that the legislation be reviewed in 2014, Italy could slow Europe’s race to fight climate change.

Corn flows out of a harvesting tractor
The debate over biofuels has been put to rest...for nowImage: AP

"We have agreement on everything except the deletion of the review clause," the European Parliament's lead negotiator Claude Turmes said on Thursday, Dec. 4 following extensive closed-door talks.

The debate surrounding biofuels flared up in January when the European Commission proposed that 10 percent of road transport fuel should come from renewable resources by the year 2020. Biofuels would comprise a large portion of such resources, meaning that a large market currently coveted by exporters such as Brazil and Indonesia would be opened up.

Environmentalists have opposed this move, claiming that biofuels made from grains and oilseeds were driving food prices higher and causing famers to expand their farms by infringing upon rainforests and wetlands.

The conflict over biofuels has been resolved with an agreement that up to almost one-third of the EU's 10 percent goal would be met through electric cars and trains, not biofuels.

"The 10 percent agri-fuels target has been seriously undermined," commented Turmes.

Italy could slow progress

But the larger point of contention following the closed talks was Italy's insistence to review the agreement in 2014, a move which according to Turmes could undermine investment security and put thousands of new jobs at risk. Environmental groups also criticized Italy's proposal.

A gas pump with soy biofuel
The EU has pushed hard for more biofuelImage: AP

"The negotiations were not concluded today because of one country, Italy, trying to destabilize the renewables directive in the interest of its large energy companies and against the interest of European citizens, the economy and the climate," said Greenpeace campaigner Frauke Thies.

The green energy laws are a significant part of an EU package to fight climate change, emphasized British climate minister Ed Miliband. "Europe faces a moment of truth over the next week on the issue of climate change as to whether this package goes through and goes through with environmental integrity," he said.

The EU's overall target of getting 20 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2020 was also firmed up and the member states must now roll out detailed road maps on how to reach their national targets for green energy.