Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

Session 2005-06

15 December 2005

Climate change: EFRA Committee to examine the role of bioenergy

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has today launched a new series of linked inquiries into aspects of climate change policy. The Committee intends to address three broad themes in turn:

€The role of renewable energy in meeting the UK's climate change aims, with specific reference to bioenergy - biomass and biofuels

€The "citizen's agenda": actions which individuals can take in their daily lives to help tackle climate change, including micro-generation, local communities, schools and businesses

€The Kyoto Protocol after Montreal: the operation of the "Kyoto rulebook" agreed at Montreal and future developments in preparing for Phase 2 of Kyoto after 2012

In all these inquiries, the Committee will take account of, and comment on, the forthcoming report of the Government's Review of the UK Climate Change Programme, and seek where appropriate to inform the debate on the Government's Energy Review.

The Committee intends to carry out its study of these three themes during the course of 2006. The first theme which the Committee will address is renewable energy. Written submissions are invited on the issues set out below.

Further details of the other two themes for inquiry, and a call for evidence, will be issued in due course.

Renewable energy: the role of bioenergy (biomass and biofuels)

Background to the inquiry

The Committee wishes to explore the potential role of bioenergy in meeting the UK's climate change targets€”biomass (for heat and electricity) and biofuels (for transport). Biomass is any biological mass derived from plant or animal matter (e.g. timber crops, straw, chicken litter and other waste material) used as a source of renewable heat or electricity. Biofuels are petrol or diesel additives or substitutes produced from crops and other organic material.

Bioenergy has been the subject of several recent announcements at Government and EU level. The Biomass Task Force, chaired by Sir Ben Gill, reported to Government in October 2005, and the Transport Secretary announced a Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO) in November 2005, which will require fuel providers to meet targets for biofuels sales or buy certificates to make up any shortfall. The December Pre-Budget Report included measures to increase UK production and demand for biofuels and biomass, complementing the RTFO and the recommendations of the Biomass Taskforce. In December the European Commission announced a biomass and biofuels action plan, outlining measures in the heating, electricity and transport sectors.

Call for evidence

The Committee welcomes written evidence on the following points:

1)What is the real scope for biomass and biofuels to contribute to tackling climate change? What proportion of the UK's energy and transport fuel needs could they provide?

2)How cost-effective are biomass and biofuels in comparison with other sources of renewable energy?

3)How do biofuels compare to other renewables, and with conventional fossil-fuels, in terms of carbon savings over their full life-cycle?

4)Not all biomass is equal€”potential carbon savings depend on, for instance, farming practice. What can be done to ensure energy crops are sustainably produced?

5)What impact will UK Government and EU actions have in increasing demand for, and production of, biomass and biofuels?

6)What level of financial and policy support do bioenergy technologies require in order to achieve the Government's targets for renewable energy?

7)What impact might an increase in energy crops in the UK and the rest of the EU have on biodiversity, production of food crops and land use and the environment more generally?

8)Does bioenergy production constitute the best use of UK land for non-food crops? Should UK and EU policy focus on increasing domestic production of energy crops and biomass, or are there merits in importing biomass for energy production, or raw feedstock or refined biofuel, from outside the EU?

9)What more can be done to make more efficient use, as an energy source, of the by-products of agriculture and forestry (e.g. wood waste and other organic waste)?

10)What lessons can be learned from other countries' experience in the production and use of bioenergy?

Submitters of written evidence are also asked to address any relevant aspects of the revised UK Climate Change Programme when it is published.

The deadline for submissions is Friday 3rd February 2006. More information about the required format of submissions is given overleaf.


Submissions should be in Word or rich text format and sent by e-mail to Dr Antonia James at jamesae@parliament.uk. The body of the e-mail must include a contact name, telephone number and postal address. The e-mail should also make clear who the submission is from.

Submissions must address the terms of reference. They should be as brief as possible, and certainly no more than 3,000 words. Paragraphs should be numbered for ease of reference, and the document must include an executive summary, ideally no more than one page long.

Committees make public much of the evidence they receive during inquiries. If you do not wish your submission to be published, you must clearly say so. If you wish to include private or confidential information in your submission to the Committee, please contact the Clerk of the Committee to discuss this. Please bear in mind that Committees are not able to investigate individual cases.

Personal information, such as address and contact details, should be provided separately from the body of your submission. You should be aware that there may be circumstances in which the House of Commons will be required to communicate information to third parties on request, in order to comply with its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Submissions should be original work, not previously published or circulated elsewhere. Once submitted, no public use should be made of the submission unless you have first obtained permission from the Clerk of the Committee.


1. For further details about this inquiry, please contact Dr Antonia James, the Committee's Environment Specialist, on 020 7219 2290. Information about the Committee can be found at: http://www.parliament.uk/efracom

2. The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has previously commented on some of these issues in its 2003 report on Biofuels, available online at: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200203/cmselect/cmenvfru/929/92902.htm

and in its 2005 report on Climate change: looking forward, available at:


3. The report of the Biomass Taskforce, chaired by Sir Ben Gill, was published on 25 October 2005, and is available at:


4. Information about the European Commission's Action Plan can be found on the Commission's website at: http://europa.eu.int/comm/energy/res/biomass_action_plan/green_electricity_en.htm