Europe’s biofuels not guaranteed sustainable, finds new study



Posted on 28 November 2013
 A WWF analysis has shown that the standards used to assess biofuel sources fall well short of ensuring that Europe’s push towards increased biofuel use is not contributing to environmental destruction and social exploitation.

The study, assessing the certification standards for biofuels accepted by the EU against a Certification Assessment Tool (CAT) developed by WWF, found many of the analysed standards performed on a middle or low level against WWF criteria for a credible sustainable environmental and social standard.

Although EU’s biofuel policy aims to protect areas of high biodiversity and to reduce direct greenhouse gas emissions the new WWF study reveals the lack of binding requirements in several areas, such as for the preservation and improvement of ground, water and air quality, including the lack of criteria for the use of agrochemicals. Furthermore, social standards such as a ban on slave or child labor are also left out

"Poisoned water and polluted soil is too high a price to pay for a full petrol tank ", said Imke Luebbeke, Senior Renewable Energy Policy Officer at WWF European Policy Office. “While biofuels are one way to cut our dependence on fossil fuels, EU regulations remain too weak to ensure that the biofuels we use in Europe – whether imported or domestically produced - are environmentally and socially sustainable.”

The WWF CAT study found that while all schemes met the mandatory EU RED requirements, these were not enough to ensure sustainability. A number of the standards, lacked basic environmental and social criteria such as:

• Very weak or no criteria for limitation on the use of hazardous agrochemicals;
• Very weak or no criteria for labor and social issues, such as working hours, remuneration, affected communities, compliance with the ILO Conventions, and food security;
• Lack of criteria for waste and water management
• Restoration of the native vegetation of riparian and other important areas
• Many standards do not adequately address transparency in public reporting, internal system governance, and audit scope and intensity.

Many scheme also scored very low on key implementation measures such as transparency, auditor accreditation and the adequacy and strength of audit checks.

The 3 best-performing scheme out of the 13 looked into by the WWF analysis is the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) scheme, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS). All are multi-stakeholder biofuels certification schemes which actively involve businesses, civil society and policy makers.

“The upcoming revision of the EU Renewable Energy Directive must now be used to close unacceptable gaps in the requirements,” said Luebbeke. “Having talked the talk, the EU must now walk the walk and ensure that the production of the biofuels we use in Europe is sustainable and a fair claim for society.
A display about biofuels at the center of Technology at Machynlleth, UK
© Global Warming Image / WWF-Canon Enlarge

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