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Mechanisms for Driving Sustainability of Biofuels in Developing Countries

Jennifer Harrison, Graham von Maltitz, Lorren Haywood, Annie Sugrue, Rocio Diaz-Chavez, Jaime Amezaga


The mandatory biofuel blending targets of the European Union (EU) have been influential in the establishment of a global biofuels market, as they are likely to be achieved through importation from areas with high potential for biofuel expansion, predominately parts of Africa, Latin America and Asia. Prospects of economic and rural development, fuel self-sufficiency and improved balance of trade, rather than climate change mitigation, typically attract these countries to biofuel production, despite the potential for extensive socio-economic and environmental impacts. A number of approaches aiming to optimise the outcomes from biofuel production have been put forward, including: market-based certification, national policy formulation, national legislation, impact assessments, sustainability planning, land use planning, research, monitoring and evaluation. In this paper the benefits, shortcomings and constraints of each are considered. It is concluded that: (i) sustainability of biofuel production cannot be entirely achieved through a single method, so aspects of all approaches are required; (ii) sustainability criteria are both country and project specific; (iii) the capacity to use different instruments varies between countries; and (iv) a tension exists between the stringent requirement for greenhouse gas mitigation from the EU perspective versus developing country requirements for economic and rural development. If the EU is determined to use certification to ensure the sustainability of biofuels, then it must invest in developing countries to support strong national policy and decision making as well as practical technology support, grants, transfer of skills and more.

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