Towards a biofuel standard to sort the green from the ungreen
A global panel of experts have today lent their support to a draft standard for the use of sustainable biofuels that will inject some rigour into the murky debate about the embracing of biofuels that may cause more emissions than they save.
Behind the debate were concerns that fuelling the world might be running into conflict with feeding the world and that being green at the fuel bowser might be linked with large scale deforestation, forest fires and species loss.
The new standard to allow environmental and social impact comparisons of rival biofuels was endorsed by the steering board of the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB), and developed through a multi-stakeholder process that involves business, academics and environmentalists.
“With all of the mixed messages we hear about biofuels, there is a clear need for a standard that can differentiate the good from the bad,” said Dr. Claude Martin, formerly Director-General of WWF, and current chair of the RSB. “For an issue of such seminal importance, it was necessary to bring many different stakeholder groups together to agree on how to define and measure sustainable biofuels”
The RSB, housed at the Energy Center at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), is comprised of over three hundred experts from organisations, corporations and civil society groups, including UNEP, WWF, and a number of fossil fuel producers such as BP and Shell.
Next to market players, it is thought that the draft standard could also provide a useful tool for policy makers seeking to develop appropriate standards and certification schemes, and fill gaps that exist across legislative frameworks for biofuels.
It will also look to build on standards that are already in place, such as those put forth by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), to provide a robust set of standards that stand up to scrutiny.
Further discussions in Lausanne will be directed toward the adoption of a set of principles that will address the full extent of concerns on the use of biofuels.
These are not solely limited to fuel price or carbon emissions, and incorporate social and environmental impacts right along the supply chain, including rural development, protection of land and labour rights, and maintaining biodiversity and food security.
“Ensuring sustainability is what all these discussions are hinged upon” said Jean-Philippe Denruyter, Global Bioenergy Coordinator at WWF and member of the RSB board. “Biofuels are one of a number of potential alternatives to fossil fuels, and today’s agreement allows us to initiate a stakeholder-driven process that will determine their value right across the production process, from field or forest to tank”
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