Thursday, August 14, 2008

New Draft Global Sustainability Standard For Biofuels

Aug 13: A United Nations-backed group of international experts has endorsed a first draft of a new global sustainability standard for biofuels to assess their economic, social and environmental effects. The Steering Board of the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB), which includes an expert from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), signed off on the draft criteria, called “Version Zero,” which is based on a comprehensive “land to tank” analysis spanning the entire chain of biofuel production. It is hoped that the new standard will be used by investors, governments, corporations and civil society to analyze the sustainability of different types of biofuels.

Version Zero contains input -- submitted during teleconferences, over an innovative Wiki online format and at various meetings held worldwide -- from over 300 experts from dozens of countries. It addressed such concerns as biofuels’ potential contribution to mitigating the effects of climate change, the protection of land and labor rights, soil pollution, water availability and food security. It is hoped that all feedback on the draft standard will be submitted by February 2009.

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 organizations, corporations and civil society groups, including UNEP, WWF, and a number of fossil fuel producers such as BP and Shell.

Dr. Claude Martin, formerly Director-General of World Wildlife Fund, and current chair of the RSB issued a statement commenting on the Version Zero release and said, “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. 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.” Jean-Philippe Denruyter, Global Bioenergy Coordinator at WWF and member of the RSB board said, “Ensuring sustainability is what all these discussions are hinged upon. 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.”

The RSB indicated in its announcement, "As we wish this to be a globally-applicable and globally-accessible standard for sustainable biofuels, we are actively encouraging stakeholder feedback from any interested party. The Steering Board will take all of this feedback into account through February, 2009 and publish a revised 'Version One' in April, 2009. We encourage all stakeholders to post feedback on 'Version Zero' in English on the Bioenergy Wiki (See contacts below). We will also be co-hosting several in-person feedback sessions on Version Zero around the world." A sign up form is available.

The Version Zero standard is organized around 12 major principles with criteria and guidance for each: (1) Legality: Biofuel production shall follow all applicable laws of the country in which they occur, and shall endeavor to follow all international treaties relevant to biofuels' production to which the relevant country is a party. (2) Consultation, Planning and Monitoring: Biofuels projects shall be designed and operated under appropriate, comprehensive, transparent, consultative, and participatory processes that involve all relevant stakeholders. (3) Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas: Biofuels shall contribute to climate change mitigation by significantly reducing GHG emissions as compared to fossil fuels.(4) Human and Labor Rights: Biofuel production shall not violate human rights or labor rights, and shall ensure decent work and the well-being of workers. (5) Rural and Social Development: Biofuel production shall contribute to the social and economic development of local, rural and indigenous peoples and communities. (6) Food Security: Biofuel production shall not impair food security.

(7) Conservation and Biodiversity: Biofuel production shall avoid negative impacts on biodiversity, ecosystems, and areas of High Conservation Value. (8) Soil: Biofuel production shall promote practices that seek to improve soil health and minimize degradation. (9) Water: Biofuel production shall optimize surface and groundwater resource use, including minimizing contamination or depletion of these resources, and shall not violate existing formal and customary water rights. (10) Air: Air pollution from biofuel production and processing shall be minimized along the supply chain. (11) Economic efficiency, technology, and continuous improvement: Biofuels shall be produced in the most cost-effective way. The use of technology must improve production efficiency and social and environmental performance in all stages of the biofuel value chain. (12) Land Rights: Biofuel production shall not violate land rights.

Access a release from the UN (
click here). Access the Version Zero of the RSB Principles and Criteria (click here). Access RSB website for extensive information and background (click here). Access the BionergyWiki (click here). Access a release from WWF (click here). [*Energy]