Select Committee on Environmental Audit Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum Submitted by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee


  1.  JNCC recognises the positive contribution biofuels could potentially make to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, ensuring energy security, and providing economic and social benefits, particularly in developing countries. However, we are concerned that the rapidly growing biofuel industry and trade will, without appropriate safeguards, have negative consequences for biodiversity and the supply of ecosystem goods and services, and may also adversely affect human well-being, either directly or indirectly. These problems are likely to be particularly severe in developing countries.

  2.  There is an urgent need for a coherent UK and EU strategy for biofuels, the primary aim of which should be to achieve sustainable biofuel production and use. Any future biofuel policy should as a minimum:

    i.  sit within a policy context that improves energy efficiency and reduces total energy demand;

    ii.  deliver considerable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional fuels, based on a whole life-cycle carbon assessment;

    iii.  fully assess both the negative and positive environmental impacts of all aspects of biofuel production and use and ensure that no significant biodiversity loss occurs as a consequence of its production;

    iv.  be consistent with the existing environmental policy framework, and in particular should not compromise the EU's commitment to halt the decline in biodiversity in the EU by 2010, nor the global commitment to significantly reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010; and

    v.  consider both positive and negative social impacts of all biofuel production and use, and ensure their production is consistent with long-term sustainable land use practices which do not exacerbate poverty through the unsustainable use of natural resources.

  3.  Some first-generation biofuels are not effective in mitigating climate change as they emit more carbon along their whole life-cycle than they save. The conservation and restoration of forests, peatlands and grasslands is far more effective in reducing carbon emissions.

  4.  JNCC believes that international sustainability criteria should be developed which encourage sustainably produced biofuels, whilst deterring environmentally unsustainable production. Such criteria should be developed ideally at a global level and applied to all biofuel production and trade.

  5.  The development of second-generation biofuels technology should be encouraged. There must be sufficient research investment to enable a rapid move away from feedstocks based on food crops to a broader feedstock base, which is environmentally more sustainable and ensures greater reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

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