EU Climate and Energy Package: Quality standards for fuels and biofuels

Source: International Energy Agency
Last updated: 11 December 2019

On 6 April 2009 the EU Council of Ministers adopted the final texts of the energy and climate change package negotiated in December 2008. The package aims to meet the EUs goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emission levels 20% from 1990 levels by 2020.  It comprises six legislative texts, covering:

- a revision of the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS);

- emissions reduction targets for sectors outside the ETS;

- a framework for carbon capture and storage (CCS);

- fuel quality standards;

- CO2 emission limits for new passenger cars;

- and the promotion of renewable energy sources.


The Council approved the revision of a directive establishing environmental standards for fuel. This aims to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, facilitate the more widespread blending of biofuels into petrol and diesel and set sustainability criteria for biofuels. The revised directive introduces for the first time a reduction target for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from fuels. By 2020, fuel suppliers have to decrease by 6% climate harming emissions over the entire life-cycle of their products. This can be reached in particular by admixing biofuels to petrol and diesel as well as by improving production technology in refineries. Member states may require an additional 4% reduction from fuel companies, achieved through the supply of energy for electric vehicles or other clean technologies, including carbon credits from third countries (through the Clean Development Mechanism).

To enable GHG emissions cuts, petrol may have a higher biofuel content; from 2011, petrol may contain up to 10% ethanol. In order to avoid damage to old cars, fuel with 5% ethanol (E5) will continue to be available until 2013, with the possibility for member states to extend that period. The directive also lays down environmental and social sustainability criteria for biofuels, which correspond to those in the directive on the promotion of energy from renewable sources (see separate entry). The directive also imposes limits on the content of sulphur and metallic additives in engine fuel. In order to minimise emissions of volatile air pollutants, the maximum vapour pressure of fuel is also prescribed. The revised environmental quality standards as well as the sustainability criteria for biofuels will apply from 2011. Member states are required to transpose the directive into national law by the end of 2010.

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