Policy Brief: Recycled Carbon Fuels in the Renewable Energy Directive

Brussels, 16th June –  Ahead of the stakeholder meeting on the Renewable Energy Directive on 18th-19th June,  Bellona EuropaZero Waste Europe and Rethink Plastic Alliance launch the policy brief “Recycled Carbon Fuels in the Renewable Energy Directive“.

The revised Renewable Energy Directive (REDII) establishes a common framework for the promotion of energy from renewable sources in the electricity, heating and cooling, and transport sectors for the 2021-2030 period. As a part of the transport target, member states may choose to include “Recycled Carbon Fuels.”

The climate performance of these fuels, along with other environmental impacts, will be evaluated under a delegated act by 2021. Converting fossil plastics to fuels is sometimes marketed as a part of the solution to the environmental and waste problems the plastic industry is currently facing.

This policy briefing highlight the main concerns regarding fuels derived from non-renewable waste streams in the REDII. As our brief case study shows, the production of these fuels could have harmful effects on both climate change mitigation and circular economy measures.

We need to start focusing on effective and scalable climate change solutions to transition to net-zero by 2050 – and plastic fuels don’t fit the bill. Burning plastic made from oil and gas at the back of the car will not help mitigate, but will exacerbate climate change.’’ said Ana Šerdoner, Industry Policy Manager at Bellona Europa and author of the brief. ‘’Claiming that turning fossil plastic into fossil fuels is a solution for climate change is part of a growing greenwashing trend in climate accounting. It’s very simple for industry to announce support for net zero climate goals when they simultaneously attempt to dismantle basic accounting of the climate damaging emissions they and their products cause.’’, she continued.

Bellona Europa, Zero Waste Europe and Rethink Plastic Alliance urge member states not to include these fuels into their transport targets. As well, due to the inclusion of these fuels in the REDII, we urge the European Commission to develop a set of robust environmental criteria that ensure the impacts of these fuels are accounted for properly.

The current crisis is creating an opportunity for real change. Yet, plastic-to-fuel is encouraging reliance on our current linear system – convincing consumers that this waste can be “recycled” when in fact it is getting burned. That’s not the idea of a cycle.” said Janek Vahk, Climate, Energy and Air Pollution Coordinator at Zero Waste Europe.