to ensure long-term sustainable biomass trade on the one hand and putting safeguards in place quickly to direct the rapidly growing market on the other. The incremental development of such a certification scheme is probably the most feasible option, allowing for gradual learning and expansion over time. Existing certification schemes provide useful models. While not all biomass types may fulfil the entire set of sustainability criteria initially, the emphasis should be on the continuous improvement of sustainability benchmarks.
While a certification scheme should be thorough, comprehensive, transparent, and reliable, it should also not create a significant hurdle for nascent biofuel industries. Criteria and indicators should be adaptable to the requirements of different regions, and be mindful of the implementation costs. It will be important to pair any certification scheme with technical assistance, incentives, and financing, so that small- and medium-scale producers can qualify as readily as large-scale producers. Furthermore, it is important to ensure that any standards and certification schemes for biofuels address the issue of possible leakage effects, through which benefits gained in one location could “leak away” to another.
Moving forward, additional research will be needed to determine whether an independent international certification body for sustainable biomass is feasible. This should be done in collaboration with a consortium of all stakeholders in the biomass- for-energy production chain. At this stage, and at later steps in the development process, public information dissemination and support will be critical. It will be important to evaluate how likely broad participation by the petroleum industry, biofuel industry, importers, and consumers will be. Their participation is necessary in order for such a scheme to be accepted in the market. Costs and benefits for the various participants need to be analyzed.
To achieve a rapid scale-up in biofuels production that can be sustained over the long term, governments must enact a coordinated set of policies that are consistent, long-term, and informed by broad stakeholder participation. Governments should promote biofuels within the context of a broader transformation of the transportation sector. Biofuels alone will not solve all of the world’s transportation-related energy problems. Development of these fuels must occur within the context of a transition to a more-efficient, less-polluting and more-diversified global transport sector. They must be part of a portfolio of options that includes dramatic improvements in vehicle fuel economy, investments in public transportation, better urban planning, and smarter and more creative means of moving around a village or across the globe.
To achieve their full potential to provide security, environmental, and social benefits, biofuels need to represent an increasing share of total transport fuel relative to oil. In combination with improved vehicle efficiency, smart growth, and other new fuel sources such as biogas—and eventually even renewable hydrogen or electricity— biofuels can drive the world towards a far less vulnerable and less polluting transport system.