Responsible Biofuels and Beyond: critical issues for the Convention on Biological Diversity work programme

IUCN and WWF convened the side event Responsible Biofuels and Beyond : critical issues for the CBD agriculture programme of work to highlight critical issues relating to the biofuels and biodiversity agenda including land use, indirect landuse change, impacts on smallholders and vulnerable groups, invasive species risks, indicators for biodiversity, biodiversity information available for biofuels decisions, and processes for identifying responsible cultivation areas.

Jatropha curcas, Mali

Other objectives were to:

  • Outline the important role of governments in providing robust regulatory and planning frameworks;
  • Showcase and learn from examples and experiences from the region (Eastern and Southern Africa) and globally); and
  • Raise awareness in the CBD community on existing processes for enabling sustainable biofuels including, in particular, the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels and the Global Bioenergy Partnership work.

The event was attended by about 40 people from civil society, intergovernmental organizations, and governments. Presentations were made by regional representatives from IUCN and WWF, a private sector company working on biofuels policy frameworks in Kenya, and a representative from Conservation International who is working on the Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool. Highlights from the presentations included:

  • the importance of having policy frameworks that are developed through multistakeholder multisectoral processes;
  • the challenge and importance of providing timely science and evidence to inform policies and regulatory frameworks for biofuels;
  • the presence of multiple layered agendas behind decisions about biofuels which make influencing those decisions towards sustainable approaches difficult;
  • the presence of multiple sustainability aspects (e.g. greenhouse gas reductions, land rights, rural development, gender, environment) which need to be addressed in the context of projects, programmes and policies;
  • the availability of biodiversity data for informing biofuels decisions which is: at a fine scale, compiled with national partners using international standards and tested approaches;
  • the importance of supplementing information from such data sets with data collected in the field, and through engaging local stakeholders;
  • the challenge of and need for interpreting global standards and practices nationally; and
  • the importance of institutional frameworks and capacity at the local and national levels for frameworks to be implemented.

Discussion with participants revealed further issues and questions around GHG emission reductions from various biofuels, concerns about availability and use of water for biofuels production, the need for awareness and capacity among the public and farming community about biofuels markets and crops, and the challenge of finding financing for complex projects which plan biofuels developments in the context of landscape mosaics which produce a range of goods and services to people and biodiversity.

In conclusion, the Chair noted that it is appropriate for the CBD to consider biofuels as part of the Agriculture Programme of Work, given that biofuels markets are merely another end use for agricultural systems and that the lessons from the biofuels experience should inform more sustainable agricultural practices. Also highlighted was the role of governments in providing the strategic planning framework for biofuels – based on robust participatory processes, using good biodiversity data, and safeguarding the environment and people from negative consequences of biofuels. Finally, the Parties were urged to build on the vast body of work that is already underway to promote and enable responsible biofuels (in particular the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels and the Global Bioenergy Partnership), rather than re-start developing a framework under the auspices of the CBD.

Work area: 
East and Southern Africa
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