Volume 47 (2013)

Volume 47 (2013) / Issue 4

Alan Swinbank, Carsten Daugbjerg, 'Improving EU Biofuels Policy? Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy Efficiency, and WTO Compatibility' (2013) 47 Journal of World Trade, Issue 4, pp. 813–834


Both the EU's Renewable Energy Directive (RED) and Article 7a of its Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) seek to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transport fuels. The RED mandates a 10% share of renewable energy in transport fuels by 2020, whilst the FQD requires a 6% reduction in GHG emissions (from a 2010 base) by the same date. In practice, it will mainly be biofuels that economic operators will use to meet these requirements, but the different approaches can lead to either the RED, or the FQD, acting as the binding constraint. A common set of environmental sustainability criteria apply to biofuels under both the RED and the FQD. In particular, biofuels have to demonstrate a 35% (later increasing to 50/60%) saving in life-cycle GHG emissions. This could be problematic in the World Trade Organization (WTO), as a non-compliant biofuel with a 34% emissions saving would probably be judged to be 'like' a compliant biofuel. A more economically rational way to reduce GHG emissions, and one that might attract greater public support, would be for the RED to reward emission reductions along the lines of the FQD. Moreover, this modification would probably make the provisions more acceptable in the WTO, as there would be a clearer link between policy measures and the objective of reductions in GHG emissions; and the combination of the revised RED and the FQD would lessen the commercial incentive to import biofuels with modest GHG emission savings, and thus reduce the risk of trade tension.

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ISSN: 1011-6702
ID: TRAD2013027