If relevant volumes of hydrogen and synthetic fuels are to be used in the European transport sector until 2030, there is a need for sustainability criteria for these fuels to ensure their environmental benefit. Such criteria should not only address CO2 emission savings but also broader aspects of sustainability such as the use of natural resources (e.g. water and land) and social impacts (e.g. land right issues and welfare of local population in production countries). As electricity-based synthetic methane can also be used in other sectors (e.g. for heating), the development of sustainability criteria is not only relevant for transport but also for the climate policy framework of other sectors.
This policy paper sets out the most important issues which should be addressed by such criteria and outlines possible criteria approaches. For the development of a concrete criteria set, a much more thorough assessment of the relevant issues is necessary than it is possible in this short paper. The analysis in this paper concentrates on the sustainability aspects of the production of liquid synthetic fuels (methanol, liquid hydrocarbons), with most arguments also applying to hydrogen.