Carbon News and Info
Climate change news
Energy & biofuels
Monday, 14 May 2007
An international accreditation system for biofuels should be established
to ensure the rapidly-growing industry provides an environmentally
sustainable alternative to fossil fuels, a United Nations report says.
Certification of all bio-energy products is needed to ensure production
meets a range of environmental standards, particularly those on
greenhouse gas emissions, the report says.
"Sustainable Energy: A Framework for Decision Makers" was prepared by
UN-Energy, which brings together all UN agencies working in the area of
energy and is led by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
A verification scheme should force the measurement of greenhouse gas
emissions associated with biofuel production at every stage, from the
field to fuel tank, it says.
The report finds that a rapidly-growing global biofuels industry offers
great potential for sustainable energy supply but also brings risks to
the environment and vulnerable societies. There are great potential
economic benefits to local farmers from biofuels, but concentration of
land ownership "could drive the world's poorest farmers off their land
and into deeper poverty."
Ways must also be found to protect forests and grasslands from land
clearing as biofuel crops increasingly compete for land with food crops.
"Unless new policies are enacted to protect threatened lands, secure
socially acceptable land use, and steer bioenergy development in a
sustainable direction overall, the environmental and social damage could
in some cases outweigh the benefits," the report warns.
It also recommends that crops with high fossil fuel input, such as
through fertiliser use, be avoided.
The report says tariffs on the imports of ethanol and biodiesel are
retarding the development if the industry and could pose environmental
threats in some countries.
"Impeding imports of more efficiently produced biofuels from abroad
while simultaneously mandating the blending of biofuel with fossil fuels
at home could divert more land than necessary from food production," the
The potential of cleaner biofuels to reduce indoor air pollution, a
major developing world killer, could cut deaths substantially by
replacing fuelwood and other traditional biomass fuels.