Overview on the EU Renewable Energy Directive and biofuels (30 January 2013)
The European Parliament and the Council adopted in April 2009 a Directive on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources ('Renewable Energy Directive') as a part of the EU climate and energy package which aims to combat climate change and increase the EU’s energy security, to promote technological development and innovation, and to provide opportunities for employment and regional development, especially in rural and isolated areas. The Directive includes, besides the 20% overall target for the share of renewable energy in 2020, a 10% target for each Member State for the share of energy from renewable sources in transport in 2020. 
The Renewable Energy Directive provides a clear set of sustainability criteria for biofuels to be applied in all EU Member States. Identical provisions are also included in the EU Fuel Quality Directive which establishes minimum specifications for fuels for health and environmental reasons and sets a target for the reduction of life cycle GHG emissions of fuels.
At the EU level there is no regulation as regards the Member State's choice for its renewable energy mix or support instruments. There is no mandate for biofuels at the EU level. The implementation of the Directive including the design of the support schemes to promote the development of renewable energy is the responsibility of the Member States.
The EU biofuels sustainability regime equally applies to domestically produced and imported biofuels. The EU biofuels sustainability criteria require that biofuels save a minimum amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to fossil fuels. Biofuels need to save at least 35% compared to fossil fuels in order to receive the support and/ or to be counted towards the national or EU targets. This threshold will rise to 50% in 2017. In the calculation of the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions, not only carbon dioxide is included, but also methane (CH4) and di-nitrous oxide (N2O) are included (both stronger greenhouse gases than CO2).
Moreover, restrictions with respect to the land used for the cultivation of biofuels apply. These are mainly aimed at the preservation of biodiversity and the protection of carbon rich soils and require that biofuels are not made from raw material from land with high biodiversity value or high carbon stocks such as forests and peatland. Implementation of these criteria is enforced by the Member States where the biofuels are used.
A number of environmental and social issues related to the production of biofuels, including environment, food security aspects and the use of water, land and soil resources, are additionally addressed through voluntary biofuels certification schemes and the monitoring and reporting requirements. Most of the 13 voluntary schemes, that are recognised by the Commission today and that are active in non-EU countries, cover also additional environmental issues, such as water, air and soil protection, as well as social issues, including land use rights, food security etc.
The first biennial report of the Commission will be published shortly. The report will be made available on the Commission web site dedicated to renewable energy: http://ec.europa.eu/energy/renewables/index_en.htm
At the EU level support is provided for facilitation of development and deployment of technologies for large scale production of advanced biofuels from non-food-crops as well as for the transport sector technologies using other sources of renewable energy such as electric cars and cars using hydrogen or biomethane.
In addition, on 17 October 2012, following the obligation under the Renewable Energy Directive that was adopted in 2009, the Commission adopted a proposal to limit global land conversion related to biofuel production, and raise the climate benefits of biofuels used in the EU. The Commission proposes to limit the amount of 1st generation biofuels (including from maize) that can count towards the Renewable Energy Directive targets to 5% of overall energy consumption in transport. The Commission has also proposed to provide additional incentives for advanced biofuels from non-food crops that do not create an additional demand for land. The proposal will now be discussed between the co-legislators in the Parliament and the Council.
 Directive 2009/28/EC
 Directive 2009/30/EC
 The proposal is available here: http://ec.europa.eu/energy/renewables/biofuels/land_use_change_en.htm
Related links and resources:
Biofuels and Food Security - A consultation by the HLPE to set the track of its study
Committee on World Food Security (CFS)
High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE)
The High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) Key Elements