The European Commission has adopted draft proposals to keep its target for 10% of road transport fuel to come from renewable sources by 2020, but has said that this is subject to the fuels being produced in a sustainable way.

Most of these renewable transport fuels will be biofuels. Some biofuels have come under criticism from environmentalists because they themselves can cause environmental damage and some do not deliver real carbon savings.

The European Commission is considering using guidelines issued earlier this month by the UK's Renewables Fuels Agency to measure the sustainability of biofuels. Companies supplying biofuels to meet the UK's element of the EU target will have to provide information on the greenhouse gas savings and the wider sustainability of the biofuels they provide.

Concerns over the need to differentiate between 'good' and 'bad' biofuels will also be addressed by a new European Union-backed research program designed to help overcome technical and non-technical barriers to the use of biofuels, including cleaner second generation biofuels. The so-called European Biofuels Technology Platform is due to be launched at the end of January.

One critic of the European Commission's proposals argues that "The sustainability criteria proposed by the European Commission exclude vital factors such as large scale water extraction, soil erosion, land conflicts, human rights and labour conditions of workers. Moreover, they can't deal with macro-level impacts such as displacement and increased food prices."