Trade and markets

Biofuels and the sustainability challenge: a global assessment of sustainability issues, trends and policies for biofuels and related feedstocks

The emergence of biofuels
The global emergence of biofuels over the last two decades has been met with increased concerns over climate change and sustainable development. This report addresses the core issue of biofuel sustainability and related feedstocks, drawing from a wide range of sustainability related studies, reports, policy initiatives. The report critically examines the economic, environmental and social sustainability dimensions of biofuels and reviews the major certification initiatives, schemes and regulations. In doing so, the report relies on extensive review of a number of country case studies covering a broad range of current biofuel-feedstocks systems.

Feedstock efficiency versus sustainability
The report analysis clearly distinguish feedstock efficiency (in terms of biofuel yields per unit of land) from sustainability, especially under limiting resource (irrigated water) or sensitive areas (carbon stocks). Also, long run economic viability depend on the future policy support, technical innovations in biofuel systems, economics of biofuel supply and demand and tradeoffs between food and energy uses as well as feedstock productivity gains. Biofuels can present both advantages and risks for environmental sustainability; the latter being often difficult to measure or monitor and may conflict with economic sustainability unless great strides in productivity gains are achieved. Social sustainability is the weakest link in current biofuel certification schemes owing to intrinsic local factors and as efforts target more few negative social impacts; much less focus is placed on inclusive processes that strengthen marginal stockholders participation and benefits.

Biofuel certification schemes
Biofuel certification schemes need to be more smallholder inclusive, perhaps through policy initiatives. Poor developing countries, especially with abundant land and biomass production potential, need to prioritise food security and poverty reduction. In many cases, biofuel models that encourage small scale integrated bioenergy systems may offer higher rural development impacts. FDI-induced largerscale biofuel projects, on the other hand, may be suitable in those situations where countries have sufficient industrial capacity, besides land and biomass potential, and when these biofuel projects can be fully integrated into domestic energy strategies that do not conflict with food production potential and food security.

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