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Towards sustainable biomass within the bio-economy?

Lessons learned from the renewable energy directive and its voluntary certification systems

 

The need for biomass is increasing globally and it is projected to continue doing so over the coming decades.This demand is spurred by plans to transform industries which currently rely on fossil inputs to industries which use bio-based raw materials under the notion of the biobased economy. Strategies for the bio-economy, or the biobased economy, have been developed not only by the EU, but a number of countries acknowledge and support the potential benefits of the bio-economy. However, the question of how to secure a sustainable biomass supply for this new way of producing energy and products often remains unanswered. It has been argued that this situation resembles the introduction of targets for liquid bioenergy with the EU renewable energy directive where a political framework was setup without a feedstock resource strategy.

In order to address sustainability aspects along transnational value chains market-based instruments and hybrid regulatory system that includes both state and private actors are increasingly applied. These regulations may lead to new forms of power on the environment and the political arena for a range of actors. The mechanisms included in the EU's sustainability criteria for biomass and biofuels is a key example of such systems. With the introduction of sustainability criteria the EU set mandatory requirements in order to regulate three main areas of environmental concern in the production of biofuels. At the same time additional criteria were brought forward, including social aspects of sustainability. In recent year a number of voluntary certification schemes for biofuels have emerged that verify compliance of producers of raw materials for biofuels with the EU’s criteria, of which 19 were officially approved by the EU.  

The overall aim of this research project is to analyze these voluntary certification schemes under the assumption that they are key actors involved in shaping both content and processes around issues of sustainability in the bio-economy. Further, the aim is to deepen the knowledge of the certified economic operators’ behavior as well as to make an early analysis of other systems applied for verifying sustainability of biomass such as the recently introduced ISO standard for sustainable bioenergy.

 

A project supported by the Swedish Energy Agency

 

Project leader Sara Brogaard

 

Researcher Henner Busch

 

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