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Certifying the sustainability of biofuels: Promise and reality

Reinier de Man and Laura German

Energy Policy, 2017, vol. 109, issue C, 871-883

Abstract: While liquid biofuels play a prominent role in sustainable energy goals, the relationship between their ability to advance sustainability agendas and their governance has been poorly addressed. The recognition of a number of private sector initiated certification schemes as mechanisms to verify compliance with the requirements of the EU-Renewable Energy Directive has provided a strong stimulus for biofuels certification. The question asked in this article is: "To what extent does the application of these standards effectively contribute to the sustainable production of bioenergy?" The question is answered on the basis of a conceptual framework and literature review. Three elements of the effectiveness of market-based certification standards are reviewed: the substantive scope of emergent standards, the effectiveness of implementation, and levels and trends in market conversion. The proliferation of certificates for low quality standards, deficiencies in the certification process and low market conversion suggest that certification is an inadequate substitute for public regulation. For certification to hold any meaningful potential to strengthen sustainability governance in the biofuel sector, it must be embedded within a public governance system committed to redressing these deficiencies and structuring accountability not just towards global environmental values, but to local people and place.

Keywords: Biofuels; Certification; Renewable energy directive; Land governance; Roundtables (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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