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Brazilian NGO position on criteria for socioenvironmental verification of biofuel expansion [#78]
The following recommendations were included in the Brazilian NGO position statement prepared for the Bonn seminar on this theme in October, entitled "CRITERIA FOR EXPANSION IN BIOFUEL PRODUCTION"

To avert the potential socio-environmental impacts of biofuels, a number of criteria were introduced and discussed by participating organizations. Aside from the generally positive response to the transition to renewable fuels, it is generally considered of great importance to promote adequate investment in the so-called “second generation” of biofuels, based on cellulosic raw materials. These are likely to reduce additional pressures on land and related natural resources, since they permit the use of agricultural residues and biomass rather than require further crop expansion.

It will be difficult for producers to cope with a mixture of codes of conduct associated with biofuels while their products are destined also to other market chains. For example, most oilseed producers do not even know whether their product is destined to the food market, to cattle feeding or to fuel. Soybean growers are now charged with avoiding additional deforestation in the Amazon. Feedstocks for biofuels would need to follow these criteria, but also promote small farm participation and diversification. For this reason it is considered necessary to embark upon a wide ranging strategy of socio-environmental verification in the agricultural sector. In this sense, Brazilian NGOs have initiated development of a national socio-environmental verification process focused on the agricultural sector as a whole, involving participation of all major stakeholder groups, with an outlook on the entire market chain.

Participating organizations also emphasized the following additional criteria for socio-environmental verification:

1) Conversion to renewable fuel alternatives should be pursued in tandem and not instead of reduction in fuel consumption. Options for more efficient combustion and energy efficiency should be explored.
2) There is no automatic relationship between renewable fuel use and greenhouse emissions reduction. The GHG balance of the entire life-cycle, from production to transport and land use must be carefully evaluated, and priority given to the local use and development of biofuel markets as close as possible to where their feedstocks are produced.
3) Biofuels expansion into forests and other protected biomes should be prevented, with a priority focus on their indirect impacts (source and leakage effects), to be monitored and subject to independent verification regarding observance of land use codes, zoning and basin plans (i.e., measures at both production unit and landscape scale).
4) Choice of feedstock, production scale, financial incentives and geographical concentration should discourage rather than reinforce regional imbalances and social inequity.
5) Policies should favor use of agricultural and forest residues for biomass prior to dedicating incremental land areas to production of such feedstocks alone.
6) Priority should be placed on speeding up the transition to the less land-hungry second generation of biofuels.
7) Discussion on criteria should be expanded to the entire agricultural sector, and not just focus on biofuels, both in the interest of improving effectiveness of purchase policies and chain traceability and in order to avoid undesired effects on the agricultural frontier. In this respect, biofuels might represent a powerful opportunity to stimulate improvements throughout the agricultural sector.
8) Rather than rely on a limited number of feedstocks, efforts should be made to diversify sources of biomass fuels and to stimulate intercropping and agroforestry, reinforcing the potential for biofuels to promote local food security.
9) Responsibility schemes such as Brazil’s “social fuel label” should assist producer groups to organize and negotiate price and supply relations, as well as be submitted to a closer social control to assure its purposes are fulfilled, thereby helping to circumvent outgrowers’ subordination to buyers. Such a label, on its own, does not guarantee quality or social benefit, but rather must be subject to scrutiny to ensure adequate criteria are applied.

This document was compiled by Amigos da Terra – Amazônia Brasileira.
(edited on 2007-02-23 12:55 UTC by Dr Peter May)
posted on 2007-02-23 12:50 UTC by Dr Peter May, Amigos da Terra - Amazônia Brasileira

  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme