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Extended Emissions Trading Versus Sustainability Criteria: Managing the Ecological and Social Ambivalences of Bioenergy

Felix Ekardt, Hartwig von Bredow


The use of bioenergy for the generation of electricity and heat as well as for the production of biofuels is growing at an impressive pace. While some ecological advantages of the use of biomass are well-known, critics stress the negative ecological and social impacts of the intensive use of biomass. Existing legal regulations, whether on the European or national level 1, do not seem to solve these problems. The role sustainability criteria play in overcoming the ambivalences of global bioenergy use is naturally a limited one, as these criteria are not suited to accurately reflect the complexity of the matter. Also, sustainability criteria may not avoid effects of shifting or indirect land-use in areas that do not also have appropriate sustainability criteria. Finally, some of the most pressing problems, like feeding the world’s population, cannot be represented at all in sustainability criteria – especially not in the current EU criteria. Instead, a radical policy shift to energy efficiency and strict greenhouse gas caps would prove more effective in overcoming these ambivalences of the use of bioenergy. A far-reaching policy of energy efficiency and strict caps would reduce global energy consumption and thus lead the way to a future zero carbon economy run exclusively on renewable energies. The text analyses the ambivalences of the use of bioenergy and at the same time provides a short overview of the law of bioenergy in die EU (also including some aspects of WTO law).

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