Infoscience

Journal article

The Power of Bioenergy-Related Standards to Protect Biodiversity

The sustainable production of bioenergy is vital to avoiding negative impacts on environmental goods such as climate, soil, water, and especially biodiversity. We propose three key issues that should be addressed in any biodiversity risk-mitigation strategy: conservation of areas of significant biodiversity value; mitigation of negative effects related to indirect land-use change; and promotion of agricultural practices with few negative impacts on biodiversity. Focusing on biodiversity concerns, we compared principles and criteria set to address biodiversity and other environmental and social issues in seven standards (defined here as commodity-based standards or roundtables, or relevant European legislation): five voluntary initiatives related to bioenergy feedstocks, the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (United Kingdom), and the European Renewable Energy Source Directive. Conservation of areas of significant biodiversity value was fairly well covered by these standards. Nevertheless, mitigation of negative impacts related to indirect land-use change was underrepresented. Although the EU directive, with its bonus system for the use of degraded land and a subquota system for noncrop biofuels, offered the most robust standards to mitigate potential negative effects, all of the standards fell short in promoting agricultural practices with low negative impacts on biodiversity. We strongly recommend that each standard be benchmarked against related standards, as we have done here, and that efforts should be made to strengthen the elements that are weak or missing. This would be a significant step toward achieving a bioenergy industry that safeguards Earth's living heritage.

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