Today, passenger cars alone are responsible for around 12% of European CO2 emissions. An opportunity to reduce CO2 emissions in transport is provided by the use of biofuels with beneficial life cycle CO2 emissions and low viscosity lubricants reducing fuel consumption. This approach was tested in the Carbon Labelling project (Project No. EIE/06/015) supported in the framework of the Intelligent Energy – Europe (IEE) programme of the European Commission.
In the Carbon Labelling project, firstly a supportable methodology for the quantification of carbon life cycle reductions was identified in co-operation with recent and on-going activities and methodologies by European and worldwide expert groups such as SenterNovem (NL), ifeu Institute (DE) and Imperial College (UK).
In a second step, the “CO2Star” was developed and the Carbon Labelling initiative actively promoted the carbon reduction potentials to consumers. Therefore, the following three “CO2Star” labelling initiatives were implemented:
• Biodiesel labelling initiative at Q1 fuel stations in Germany
• Improved lubricants labelling initiative at Q1 fuel stations in Germany
• Labelling of low carbon freight services in The Netherlands
Furthermore, consumer surveys were conducted in order to assess the success of this initiatives and the recognition of GHG labels. In addition, managing directors and CEOs of fuel retailers as well as freight service and forwarding companies were interviewed about their attitudes towards carbon labels.
Apart from these three core labelling activities, the Carbon Labelling project targeted to overcome barriers of biodiesel use in smaller EU countries by information campaigns. Due to their lower capacities and limited infrastructure, smaller EU countries the use of pre-blended biodiesel were assessed.
The results of the Carbon Labelling project showed that, the involvement of stakeholders from industry, NGOs, and consumer organisations in the implementation of carbon labels is currently very difficult due to the existing uncertainties with respect to the legal, regulatory, and economic framework conditions, as well as due to the on-going public discussion about sustainability aspects of biofuels.
Results of the consumer surveys show that the majority of consumers are not willing to pay a premium price for fuels with reduced GHG emissions, efficiency improvements, and ‘low carbon’ freight services. Furthermore, the price of a fuel is the main factor influencing the purchasing decision of consumers in Europe. Therefore, currently the added value of carbon labelling initiatives for fuel retailers and freight companies is limited. In addition, there is very little knowledge of the public about biofuels in general, and more specifically on the potential for GHG emission reductions offered by biofuels.
Finally, it is shown that the GHG issue is only one aspect in the current discussion about sustainability of biofuels and that the contribution of biofuels to GHG reduction in the transport sector is limited. The focus of GHG reductions in the transport sector should be a combined strategy on measures which are decreasing fuel consumption, such as higher vehicle efficiencies (improved traffic management, speed limits, interactive traffic lights, etc.), and alternative mobility concepts (public transport, car sharing, etc.), as well as on the use of best-practice biofuels.