/ ©: Mauri Rautkari / WWF-Canon

Responsible Biofuels

Biofuels are emerging as an increasingly popular alternative to fossil fuels. Indeed, they could make a massive contribution to sustainable development.

However, the commodities used to produce biofuels, like soy, palm oil and sugarcane, are often produced in ways that affects the environment in some of the world’s most sensitive ecosystems.

WWF is striving to change this so that biofuels can reach their potential without harming nature.

How "green" are biofuels really?

Of all the renewable energies, biomass is unique as it is stored solar energy. If managed and used correctly, it can be carbon-neutral.

But, bioenergy production can also have significant negative environmental and social impacts.

To grow the crops used to make biofuels, swathes of forests and other valuable ecosystems are often cleared – contributing to climate change, ruining people’s homes and livelihoods and destroying endangered species’ habitats. 
 
10% Amount of energy consumed globally that is provided by bioenergy, mostly consumed in developing countries.

► Read more why the biofuel industry needs to minimise its environmental impact

 

Our approach

We support bioenergy production that is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.

By improving the way global commodities such as palm oil, soy and sugarcane used for biofuels are produced, we can reduce our global environmental footprint and significantly drive up markets that offer responsible products, goods and services. 

The most comprehensive and ambitious of the recognized schemes is the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB), a multistakeholder organisation of which WWF is a member.

The RSB’s principles and criteria include avoiding negative impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems, reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by at least 50%, maintaining water resources, improving food security, and contributing to social and economic development.
 

WWF Targets

2015: 15% of global bioenergy prodcution meets WWF requirements as defined in RSB, Bonsucro, RTRS, RSPO and FSC

Progress

< 3% of global biofuels are third-party certified, sustainably produced by standards set by RSB, RSPO, RTRS and Bonsucro (August 2013)

► Read more about WWF’s work on sustainable biofuels
 
How can we move production to more sustainable practices? Find out about WWF's Market Transformation Initiative ►

Better Production for a Living Planet

Bioenergy can make an important contribution to providing access to sustainable energy for all. Credible sustainability standards, such as the one developed by the RSB, help manage risks on a project level and promote best practices among producers and processors, complementing sound regional and national energy planning and policy.

Martina Otto, Head of of Policy Unit, Energy Branch United Nations Environment Programme

CONTEXT

Threats
  • Habitat conversion;
  • Unsustainable water abstraction;
  • Carbon emissions;
  • Pollution of soil, water and air;
  • Food security.
Opportunities
  • Potential to reduce habitat destruction and biodiversity
  • Less in some of Earth’s most precious natural places;
  • Potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Rural development opportunities;
  • Reduce energy dependence.

Which biofuels certification scheme to choose?

WWF International, IUCN NL and most recently Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) assessed biofuels certification schemes either against each other, or against a set of criteria.

Despite different methodologies and varying numbers and set of standard schemes examined, their findings largely concur:
  • All find RSB to be the strongest, most robust scheme.
  • All rate RSPO, RTRS and Bonsucro highly. ISCC was rated by all 3 organizations, but overall was found to be weaker than RSB, RSPO, RTRS and Bonsucro particularly because of the (cross-) acceptance of other EU RED schemes, which allows to sell biofuels from much weaker schemes under the ISCC name.
  • All stress the importance of governance and decision-making processes through which standards are developed and governed.
  • All highlight the importance of regular and rigorous, independent, third-party field level audits by internationally accredited auditors.
  • All reference ISEAL and generally, the schemes that have been verified to have been developed and are operating in accordance with ISEAL, or have followed the ISEAL guidelines independently come out on top in the comparisons.

Multi-stakeholder schemes i.e. those with the active involvement of different stakeholder groups on all levels of the scheme (standard setting, audits and management of the scheme) generally provide a higher level of environmental and social performance.

This means that the multi-stakeholder schemes will most likely result in better field-level implementation, as a solid governance structure, transparency and strong audit and accreditation requirements together increase the likelihood of field-level implementation.

More information on the individual studies and findings: ► Download this information (PDF 200 kb)

POSITIVE IMPACTS

One of the criticisms against producing biofuels is that in places where people rely on locally grown crops, it makes food supplies even less reliable and potentially more expensive. To avoid this risk, the Roundtable on Sustainable Materials (RSB) commits its members to dedicate part of their land to grow food. That makes it the only biofuels standard which covers issues of local ‘food security’ in a comprehensive way. The RSB also goes beyond other standards in different ways. For example, it is one of 3 standards which contain ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets that go beyond the Renewable Energy Directive (EU-RED) minimum. Only the RSB requires 100% farm certification based on the EU RED-standard.

RSB members cannot use UNESCO World Heritage Sites, IUCN protected areas category I to IV, Ramsar sites and biosphere reserves among others. They must also protect ecological corridors, regardless of the existence of legal requirements. RSB is the only standard which covers all our requirements for social welfare and community commitment. In this respect, RSB requires assessing not only the formal, but also informal land rights.

BE PART OF THE SOLUTION

► Interested parties can apply to join the Roundable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) to support biomaterial sustainability across the globe: Find out more here
  •  / ©: Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB)
    The RSB provides and promotes the global standard and certification scheme for socially, environmentally and economically sustainable production of biomass and biofuels.

    www.rsb.org

Priority Countries

  • Production
    Tanzania, Mozambique, Madagascar, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Russia

    Markets

    China, EU, USA

Trends

  • Demand drivers
    Income, consumption, urbanization, changes in government policy.

    Future focus for success
    China, Mozambique, Madagascar, Tanzania.

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