Sustainability criteria for biofuels made from land and non-land based feedstocks

Published: 2016.05.09

Ben Allen, David Baldock, Silvia Nanni and Catherine Bowyer (Institute for European Environmental Policy, IEEP)

As part of the European Climate Foundation's Biofrontiers project, the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) was asked to prepare a proposal for a set of sustainability criteria that could be integrated into post-2020 European Union legislation as a way to guarantee the sustainability of the next phase of the development of alternative fuels in Europe. The objective was to suggest criteria that would be robust, that are implementable in practice and that need not place an excessive burden on the developing European industry. The ICCT fuels team guided the project. 
Defining effective and workable sustainability criteria for alternative fuels is one of the critical steps in decarbonizing Europe’s energy sector. Such criteria should be effective in ensuring that bioresources are used in a sustainable manner, particularly for biofuels in Europe when contributing to long-term economic development; and operational in that they can be implemented within a future policy framework. They should aim to provide the necessary safeguards for the use of bioresources in Europe requested by civil society, as well as the policy and investment certainty required by industry on the supply side. They should help to meet the EU’s GHG emission reduction targets sustainably, whilst being applicable in a real-world situation, with due respect and acknowledgement of inevitable trade-offs. In developing the sustainability criteria proposed in this report, the IEEP aimed to ensure that the requirements on economic operators are proportionate to the risks posed by the feedstocks and are implementable in a practical way. 
The criteria set out in this report fall into two specific types. There are general criteria (GC) that are applicable across all feedstocks and there are specific criteria (SC) that address explicit risks identified for individual or groups of feedstocks. To be effective, a coherent framework of sustainability criteria requires both general and specific criteria, they are part of a set, are not substitutable and must be applied where they are relevant.