Roundtable for Sustainable Biofuels releases proposed standards for review

By Susanne Retka Schill
Web exclusive posted August 18, 2008 at 3:44 p.m. CST

The international Roundtable for Sustainable Biofuels released "Version Zero" of its proposed standards for sustainable biofuels on Aug. 13. Three-hundred experts and representatives of the public and private sector that developed the global norms for the economic, social and environmental impact of biofuels are seeking comments and broader participation in the development of the standards through the end of February. Meetings are being organized to gather feedback over the next six months and comments can be posted directly on the project's Web site: www.bioenergywiki.net.

Over the past year, the RSP steering board published draft principles and initiated stakeholder discussion through about 50 working groups and expert group teleconferences and meetings in Brazil, China, South Africa, and India, as well as on the Web site and via emails. The effort has been supported by staff at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The preamble to "Version Zero" says the RSB is building on the work conducted by organizations, including the Forest Stewardship Council, the Dutch Cramer Commission, the Low Carbon Vehicle partnership in the United Kingdom, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, the Better Sugarcane Initiative and other sustainable agriculture initiatives. The preamble states, "The RSB remains committed to incorporating and recognizing other sustainability standards work, and to harmonizing and reducing any eventual reporting burdens as much as possible."

"Version Zero" includes a dozen principles, each with several criteria developing the principle further. Work has begun on writing the indicators to use in evaluating the successful application on the principles and criteria. The 12 criteria include:

1. Biofuel production shall follow international treaties and national laws regarding such things as air quality, water resources, agricultural practices, labor conditions, and more.

2. Biofuels projects shall be designed and operated in participatory processes that involve all relevant stakeholders in planning and monitoring.

3. Biofuels shall significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions as compared to fossil fuels. The principle seeks to establish a standard methodology for comparing greenhouse gases (GHG) benefits.

4. Biofuel production shall not violate human rights or labor rights, and shall ensure decent work and the well-being of workers.

5. Biofuel production shall contribute to the social and economic development of local, rural and indigenous peoples and communities.

6. Biofuel production shall not impair food security.

7. Biofuel production shall avoid negative impacts on biodiversity, ecosystems and areas of high conservation value.

8. Biofuel production shall promote practices that improve soil health and minimize degradation.

9. Surface and groundwater use will be optimized and contamination or depletion of water resources minimized.

10. Air pollution shall be minimized along the supply chain.

11. Biofuels shall be produced in the most cost-effective way, with a commitment to improve production efficiency and social and environmental performance in all stages of the biofuel value chain.

12. Biofuel production shall not violate land rights.

To download the document, visit: www.bioenergywiki.net/index.php/Version_Zero.