Making certification work for sustainable development: the case of biofuels

Feb 2008

Biofuels, fuels derived from biomass, are among the bioenergy alternatives which are being considered and are currently viewed, if carefully developed, as one of the means of slowing down the process of global warming and enhancing energy security, as well as possibly providing countries opportunities to diversify agriculture production and raise rural incomes.
While traditionally biomass has been used in the production of biofuels in the region it was produced, the comparatively low production costs in the developing world have created a price incentive that is driving an emerging international market in biofuels and related feedstocks. Additionally, imports are becoming a pre-condition for several developed nations that are interested in transferring to biofuels to meet their biofuel blending targets, considering that they do not have the land capacity to produce the needed amount of feedstocks. For small and medium-sized developing countries, exports may be a pre-condition to engage in biofuels production because of economies of scale.
In parallel with fast growing biofuels use, concerns are being voiced about the sustainability of biofuels and feedstock production and interests in mechanisms to ensure it are intensifying. Discussions are ongoing on developing frameworks for certification schemes that encourage sustainable production.
The purpose of this study is to provide an overview of certification schemes that are already in place or being developed, to analyze the benefits and drawbacks of such schemes, to assess the implications for developing countries, and to report on the possible ramifications of certification in the context of WTO. Some suggestions on how to ensure that biofuels certification is indeed conducive to sustainable production in all regions are offered at the end of the study.

By: United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

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