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Research Report

Social sustainability of EU-approved voluntary schemes for biofuels: Implications for rural livelihoods

Laura German
George Schoneveld
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2011
Pages: 34
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-1)

    Recent years have witnessed rapid growth in demand for biofuels in the global transport sector. This trend is driven in large part by increasing concerns over global warming and by the growing economic imperative to reduce the dependency on external fossil fuels, a concern amplified by the more recent instability in the global oil markets.

    The commercial production of biofuels is not a new phenomenon or a product of recent technological advances. The domestic blending of biofuels for use in the transportation sector has, for example, been part of initiatives to diversify the energy matrix since the energy crises in...

  2. (pp. 2-5)

    The RED’s overarching objective is to ensure that at least 20% of the EU’s gross final consumption of energy in 2020 consists of renewable energy. Incorporation targets differ by member state to account for country-specific capacities to adopt renewable sources; Sweden’s target, for example, is 49%, while Malta’s is only 10% (EC 2009, Annex 1A). However, the EC has mandated each member state to ensure the share of energy from renewable sources in all forms of transport in 2020 is at least 10% of final consumption (EC 2009, Article 3[4]). Each member state must develop National Renewable Energy Action Plans...

  3. (pp. 6-9)

    A precise definition of social sustainability that is both comprehensive and operational is difficult to find (Foot and Ross 2004). Much of the recent attention on social dimensions of sustainability derive from the Brundtland Commission’s definition of sustainable development – namely, ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ (WCED, 1987: 8). Key to this concept is an emphasis on inter- and intra-generational equity.

    Subsequent efforts to define social sustainability and socially responsible investment cover a broad and unwieldy set of components – from the development assistance community’s...

  4. (pp. 10-19)

    This section evaluates the scope of the different sustainability schemes, along with their likely procedural effectiveness.

    On the basis of scope alone, the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB) standard clearly has the largest number of social sustainability components (Table 2). Its scope relative to the other standards, and vis-à-vis key components of the conceptual framework, suggests it constitutes a ‘Tier I’ scheme from a social sustainability standpoint.

    The next tier of standards, which incorporate some social sustainability criteria but with less breadth than the RSB, includes Bonsucro, Greenergy, International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC) and the Round Table on Responsible...

  5. (pp. 20-21)

    On the basis of the scope of the evaluated standards, two out of the seven approved voluntary schemes (Abengoa and 2BSvs) take a minimum compliance approach with EU RED and are devoid of any commitment to social sustainability. Both of these standards are global in scope and collectively cover all biofuel feedstocks. In theory, then, they could enable a situation in which all biofuels complying with member state commitments to renewable energy lack any social sustainability.12

    Considering that another 18 schemes are pending approval, there are likely to be additional avenues for socially unsustainable projects to gain certification and, thereby,...