IUCN and Shell discuss next steps in sustainable biofuels

09 February 2012 | Article

Participants at a Shell-IUCN biofuels workshop undertook a review of work so far, shared a vision for future Shell-IUCN work on biofuels, and identified priority themes for the development of a joint work plan for 2012–2013.

IUCN and Shell have worked together on overcoming barriers to sustainability in the biofuels value chain since 2009. Successes include convening multi-stakeholder forums and partnerships to address specific issues such as improving sustainability standards and understanding indirect land use change, developing joint solutions and proposals in order to inform government policy makers, and contributing to the further development of private sector standards for biofuels.

Held at IUCN’s headquarters in Gland, Switzerland, on 18–19 October 2011, the Shell-IUCN Biofuels Partnership Strategic Review and Planning Workshop aimed to review work so far and identify areas for potential further collaboration. Participants included cross-functional representatives from Shell and IUCN, as well as from agri-food business (Cargill), voluntary standard schemes (Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels, Bon Sucro), and NGOs (WWF International).

"When IUCN and Shell began working together on biofuels two years ago, governments, private sector and NGOs were operating at a strategic, theoretical level when shaping biofuels policy and associated sustainability standards," says Deviah Aiama, Bioenergy Programme Officer at IUCN. "Today, biofuels are being used in much greater quantity, sustainability standards are being implemented on the ground, and regulations are coming into effect. This new phase of implementation leads to new challenges and issues for the biofuels industry and potential for further joint efforts between Shell and IUCN."

Workshop participants reviewed each organization’s biofuels strategy, evaluated work to date and lessons learned under the Shell-IUCN Biofuels Agreement, and took stock of the evolving biofuels landscape. A number of challenges to implementing sustainability in the biofuel value chain were discussed, including a current lack of harmony between government policies, balancing standard credibility with practicality, the cost of implementing better sustainability standards, the difficulty of demonstrating benefits from improved policy and standards, and the place of biofuels within wider agricultural issues and land-use planning. Challenges were also identified relating to how to fully leverage the strengths of each organization in order to ensure biofuels are sourced, produced, and used sustainably.

From these frank discussions, a joint vision for future work was developed: ‘Potential of sustainable biofuels realized’. Two priority themes were identified where Shell and IUCN could meaningfully work together to achieve this vision, and have been finalized after follow-up meetings between IUCN and Shell to develop the work plan for 2012–2013:

  • Theme 1: Uptake and implementation of robust sustainability standards and safeguards
  • Theme 2: Energy and environmental policies that encourage better biofuels and resource use

A report summarizing the workshop is available here (pdf).

For further information on the workshop and this project please contact deviah.aiama "at"iucn.org.