Evidence-based policy or policy-based evidence gathering? Biofuels, the EU and the 10% target


Abstract

The 2009 Renewable Energy Directive mandates European Union member-states’ road transport fuel to comprise a minimum of 10% renewable content by 2020. This target is expected to be met predominantly from biofuels. However, scientific evidence is increasingly questioning the ability of biofuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions when factors such as indirect land-use change are taken into consideration. This paper interrogates the 10% target, critically assessing its political motivations, use of scientific evidence and the actions of an individual policy entrepreneur who played a central role in its adoption. It finds that European Union decision-making bodies’ commitment to internal guidelines on the use of expertise and the precautionary principle was questionable, despite the scientific uncertainty inherent in the biofuels debate. It concludes that imperatives located in the political space dominated scientific evidence and led to a process of ‘policy-based evidence gathering’ to justify the policy choice of a 10% renewable energy/biofuels target.

Reference

Sharman, A., and Holmes, J. 2010. Evidence-based policy or policy-based evidence gathering? Biofuels, the EU and the 10% target. Environmental Policy and Governance, v.20, pp.309-321