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Cablegate: Netherlands: Bullish On Eu Biofuels Sustainability

VZCZCXRO4889
RR RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
DE RUEHTC #0820/01 2741321
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 301321Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2026
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC
RUEAEPA/HQ EPA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 THE HAGUE 000820

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KGHG EAGR SENV ENRG TRGY EUN NL
SUBJECT: NETHERLANDS: BULLISH ON EU BIOFUELS SUSTAINABILITY
CRITERIA

REF: A. STATE 99217
B. BRUSSELS 1439

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED; PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY.

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The Dutch coordinators for biofuels policy
have "no real concerns" with the biofuels proposals in
Brussels and are anxious for the EU climate and energy
package to move forward. If anything, the Dutch position on
biofuels is closer to the European Parliament´s view than the
European Commission´s proposal. They favor earlier, higher
greenhouse gas (GHG) savings thresholds for biofuels. END
SUMMARY.

------------------------------------
DUTCH GOVERNMENT PLAYERS ON BIOFUELS
------------------------------------

2. (SBU) EconOff met September 23 with Steven Wonink and
Nienke Smeets from the Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning,
and the Environment (VROM), which has the lead in
coordinating the Dutch government´s position on biofuels
policy. The Ministries of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Finance
(MoF), Economic Affairs (MEA), and Agriculture all contribute
to the intra-governmental dialogue on this issue. Smeets
said all the ministries are "on the same page" when it comes
to biofuels sustainability criteria, despite their different
constituencies. (Note: The official who represents the
Netherlands in Brussels on climate and energy is seconded
from VROM. End note.)

--------------------------------------
SUPPORT FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY DIRECTIVE
--------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Wonink said the interim review clause for the target
of 10% alternative fuels in transport by 2020 was still under
discussion in Brussels. He said the Netherlands supported an
interim target of at least 5% by around 2014, and that the
Dutch leadership had officially signed off on this position
in a recent cabinet meeting. He added that about half of the
EU, including the Netherlands, wanted an interim review date
of 2014 at the latest.

----------------------------------------------
SUSTAINABILITY CRITERIA: GHG SAVINGS THRESHOLD
----------------------------------------------

4. (SBU) Smeets described the "ad hoc working party" on
sustainability criteria now convened in Brussels as the
Commission´s way of ensuring that the Renewable Energy
Directive and the Fuel Quality Directive have consistent
criteria. She said the Netherlands ideally would like to see
the 35% GHG emissions savings threshold rise to 50% by 2012
then 60% in 2015, along the lines of the European
Parliament´s thinking. However, she added the Dutch would
support a plan with the threshold rising to 50% in 2015 as
the second step.

5. (SBU) Wonink explained the political sensitivity behind
the 35% threshold. He does not think the European Parliament
will succeed in raising the initial minimum level to 45%.
The agreed GHG savings from rapeseed-derived biofuel is 36%.
Therefore, top EU rapeseed producers such as France and
Germany would suffer from a higher threshold and will block
that from happening. Smeets said she did not know when
formal talks would begin between the European Parliament,
Council, and Commission to reach a compromise.

--------------------------------------
SUSTAINABILITY CRITERIA: SOCIAL ISSUES
--------------------------------------

6. (SBU) Wonink said the original sustainability criteria
proposal for biofuels production included a
"cross-compliance" requirement that third countries would
have to meet EU standards. The Dutch feared this requirement
would be incompatible with WTO rules and welcomed its
removal. Instead, the Netherlands wants to include a
reporting obligation for biofuels operators. Companies will
have to report on local environmental and social issues in
production areas (e.g., Brazilian sugar cane plantations),
but with no threat of penalties initially. The Commission
would then evaluate the reporting in a few years time to
determine whether the operators had submitted adequate
information. Smeets said the Dutch had not intended to
devise criteria that prevented Brazilian ethanol or others
biofuel products from qualifying for the Renewable Energy

THE HAGUE 00000820 002 OF 002

Directive´s targets at this stage.

7. (SBU) Smeets said one key policy problem remained to be
worked out: How to handle the issue of "indirect land use
change." Some have floated the idea of granting a bonus GHG
savings value to biofuels produced on degraded lands, but the
Dutch consider that idea unsatisfactory. She noted there is
not enough data yet on the actual indirect effects of biofuel
production. She is interested in hearing any ideas U.S.
experts or policymakers have to address this issue.

-------
COMMENT
-------

8. (SBU) The Dutch are in the EU´s vanguard in promoting an
aggressive climate and energy agenda. However, we take
claims that the government is completely united on biofuel
policy with a grain of salt. Foreign Ministry contacts have
told us separately that they often serve as an "honest
broker" between VROM (pro-environmental regulation) and MEA
(more industry-friendly) on issues where they do not see
eye-to-eye. This schism is evident when VROM Minister
Jacqueline Cramer (of the Labor Party, PvdA) and MEA Minister
Maria van der Hoeven (of the Christian-Democratic Party, CDA)
spar in the media over nuclear energy. That said, Cramer and
van der Hoeven have not disagreed publicly on biofuels
policy. END COMMENT.

Culbertson

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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