Lessons learned in testing the Global Bio-Energy Partnership sustainability indicators

Nov 2013

In May 2011 the Global Bioenergy Partnership (GBEP) Task Force on Sustainability agreed on a first set of 24 relevant, practical, science-based, voluntary sustainability indicators for bioenergy. Several countries are undertaking pilot projects to test the feasibility and practicality of the indicators as a tool for policymaking. This report aims to bring together the lessons learned to date from the GBEP pilots, using the outcomes available so far and focused discussions at the GBEP meeting in Berlin in May 2013. This report is intended as a guide to help the GBEP community to further develop the indicators and enhance the practicality of the tool. This report focuses primarily on the pilots undertaken in five countries: Colombia, Germany, Ghana, Indonesia, and the Netherlands, with inputs also from countries present at the Berlin workshop and from a project-scale pilot in Japan. The pilots varied in their approach taken, specifically on aspects such as the geographical and sectoral scope chosen and the selection of indicators. The relevance of the indicators varies in different country contexts, but data availability and quality also played a key role in scope selection.
This report presents detailed lessons learned and recommendations per indicator. In addition several recommendations are identified that are common to the GBEP indicators more generally:
- Attribution of data to bioenergy is challenging, especially since data may be monitored already, but not specifically related to bioenergy (e.g. data related to agriculture or jobs). It is recommended to provide guidance regarding attribution to bioenergy.
- The appropriate geographical scope of the indicator is not always clear, especially when data crosses country boundaries (e.g. a watershed) or involves imported feedstocks. For individual indicators, it should be explained when and how imported feedstocks, intermediates and bioenergy carriers should be included.
- Further guidance would be valuable on how to deal with data gaps and how to reduce the uncertainty of the indicators.
- Some indicators were found to be too focused on agricultural feedstocks, or lacking in specific details on how to treat, for example residue feedstocks. Indicator methodologies should be reviewed to ensure that appropriate reference is made to all types of biomass.
- For a number of indicators, particularly in the environmental pillar, the development of “factors”, (similar to the concept of emissions factors for GHG) could help to make consistent and simple approximations for some indicators where there is currently low data availability.
- Guidance should be developed on how to present the results of the indicators. For some indicators the results are more meaningful if they are presented spatially in the form of maps (e.g. soil quality).

By: L. Gamba, G. Toop (Ecofys)

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