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Europe's biofuels not guaranteed sustainable, finds new study

28 / 11 / 2013, Panda.org

Gland, Switzerland:  A WWF analysis has shown that the standards used to assess biofuel sources fall well short of ensuring that Europe's push towards increased biofuel use is not contributing to environmental destruction and social exploitation.The study, assessing the certification standards for biofuels accepted by the EU against a Certification Assessment Tool (CAT) developed by WWF, found many of the analysed standards had middle to low level performance.Although EU's biofuel policy aims to protect areas of high biodiversity and to reduce direct greenhouse gas emissions the new WWF study reveals the lack of binding requirements in several areas, such as: for the preservation and improvement of ground, water and air quality, including the lack of criteria for the use of agrochemicals. Furthermore, social standards such as a ban on slave or child labour are also left out."Poisoned water and polluted soil is too high a price to pay for a full petrol tank ", said Imke Lübbeke, Senior Renewable Energy Policy Officer at WWF European Policy Office. "While biofuels are one way to cut our dependence on fossil fuels, EU regulations remain too weak to ensure that the biofuels we use in Europe – whether imported or domestically produced - are environmentally and socially sustainable."The WWF CAT study found that while all schemes met the mandatory EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED) requirements, these were not enough to ensure sustainability. A number of the standards, specifically the ones created to comply with the EU RED, lacked or had inadequate criteria on issues such as waste management, compliance with labor laws and social legislation and paid insufficient attention to potential biofuel impacts on food security. Many did not require restoration of the native vegetation of riparian and other important areas.Many also scored very low on key implementation measures such as transparency, auditor accreditation and the adequacy and strength of audit checks. The best-performing scheme out of the 13 looked into by the WWF analysis is the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) standard. The top performing standards tended to be multi-stakeholder biofuels certification schemes which actively involve businesses, civil society and policy makers in standard setting and implementation."The upcoming revision of the EU Renewable Energy Directive must now be used to close unacceptable gaps in the requirements," said Lübbeke. "Having talked the talk, the EU must now walk the walk and ensure that the production of the biofuels we use in Europe is sustainable and free from human rights abuses and exploitation. In particular, a scheme designed to reduce emissions needs to fully account for all emissions."

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