Biofuels; Sustainability certification; Co-production of regulation; Governance
Biofuel policy has become highly contentious in Europe, driven by the Biofuels Directive (2003/30/EC), which requires that “biofuels or other renewable fuels” constitute 5.75% of the energy content of petrol and diesel sold for transport in member states by 2010. Here we examine the environmental and social sustainability components of the expression of this directive in UK law via the 2008 UK Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO).
We find that commercial and energy security priorities have dominated the design of carbon and sustainability performance management under the RTFO. As an environmental management tool, the RTFO is exceptionally weak, being a reporting standard rather than a performance or design standard. While it will in some ways be strengthened by the Renewable Energy Directive (RED), significant concerns remain in relation to the sourcing of biomass for energy under the RED.
RTFO certification is of a meta-type, being built upon existing certification and labelling schemes (e.g. the Roundtable on Responsible Soy, Forest Stewardship Council, Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and others), all of which are more or less contested by NGOs. Yet despite claiming legitimacy from these non-state initiatives, the serious concerns of environment and development NGOs have been largely ignored in regulatory terms. We draw on documentary evidence, interviews and the science in policy literature, notably ideas on regulatory co-production and post-normal science, as well as concepts of regulatory and market legitimacy, to suggest that until critical voices are given a stronger expression in UK and EC biofuel policy, biofuel policy cannot be said to have achieved a social mandate or a durable legitimacy.
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