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e Luiz Marigo/BirdLif

BirdLife Policy Brief for CBD COP-10, Nagoya

Biofuels and biodiversity BirdLife International welcomes the CBD’s consideration of the impacts of biofuels on biodiversity1. The draft COP-10 decisions refer to minimising the negative impacts of biofuel production on biodiversity and maximising the benefits. BirdLife calls for the COP decisions to be strengthened to fully recognise the need, in advance of target setting and widescale production, for internationally agreed sustainability standards, proper strategic planning, careful assessment and transparency in biofuel investment and production, to avoid conflict with biodiversity and livelihood concerns. Specifically, BirdLife calls on the CBD-10 COP decisions to address the following: 1. Promoting the positive and avoiding the negative impacts of biofuels on biodiversity must include ensuring that biofuels truly contribute to climate change mitigation by providing substantial and clearly demonstrable greenhouse gas savings across their life cycle. 2. The effects of indirect land use change caused by the production of biofuels must be taken into account when calculating greenhouse gas savings (and thus the contribution biofuels may make to climate change mitigation), assessing impacts on biodiversity, and the impacts on biodiversity that would affect socio-economic conditions and food and energy security. 3. Bioenergy production must avoid further encroachment on natural habitats. Specifically, biofuel development must avoid areas of exceptional biodiversity, such as Key Biodiversity Areas (including Important Bird Areas). 4. Effective inter-sectoral national and regional policies, strategies and regulations are needed to guide the investment in and development of biofuel production to avoid negative impacts in terms of biodiversity, land access and food security. 5. International agreement is vital on sustainability standards for the global biofuels market, to ensure biofuel development delivers carbon savings without adversely affecting the environment. Truly sustainable renewable energy sources offer an important contribution to combat climate change — they reduce dependence on fossil fuels and thus also harmful emissions of greenhouse gases. However, development of renewables must go alongside reductions in energy consumption and increased efficiency of generation and use. It must also avoid harm to ecosystems and biodiversity. There is a need to balance risks and benefits and to avoid adverse environmental effects.

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(UNEP/CBD/COP/10/1/Add.2, Item 6.4. Biofuels and biodiversity, p.160)

The current and projected scale of biofuel production causes concern for three main reasons: 1. Many current biofuels provide minimal carbon savings; some may even result in higher emissions than the fossil fuel they substitute 2. Demand for biofuels is driving conversion of natural habitats, such as grasslands and tropical forests, on a huge and potentially catastrophic scale 3. Biofuels are displacing food crops, which is likely to lead to rising food prices or to food scarcity, which particularly impact on the poor in society.

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1. Promoting the positive and avoiding the negative impacts of biofuels on biodiversity must include ensuring that biofuels truly contribute to climate change mitigation by providing substantial and clearly demonstrable and greenhouse gas savings across their life cycle. Calculations vary as to the greenhouse gas savings biofuels will make. This also depends in part on the feedstock (e.g. oil palm, soya, sugar cane, oil seed rape, jatropha) as well as its siting and cultivation. Important considerations are the energy involved in the production and transport of any fertilisers and other agrochemicals used, on emissions caused by fertliser use, on how the processing stage is powered, and what happens to any by-products and residues. Some biofuels can result in significant emission savings while in the worst cases they may result in higher emissions than the fossil fuel they substitute. Higher net emissions are likely where biofuel production involves the conversion of natural and semi-natural, carbon rich habitats such as rainforests, peatlands, savannahs and grasslands. Conversion releases the carbon stored in undisturbed natural soils and vegetation, as well as damaging biodiversity. Bioenergy makes sense only if there are significant and clearly demonstrable greenhouse gas benefits to be gained. A benchmark minimum should be 60% greenhouse gas savings compared to fossil fuels across the whole biofuel lifecycle. Calculations of greenhouse gas savings should include the contribution to greenhouse gas emissions made by any land-use changes, and include inputs such as fertilisers.

2. The effects of indirect land use change caused by the production of biofuels must be taken into account when calculating greenhouse gas savings (and thus the contribution biofuels may make to climate change mitigation), assessing impacts on biodiversity, and the impacts on biodiversity that would affect socio-economic conditions and food and energy security. When cropland is used to cultivate biofuel feedstocks, food production may be diverted elsewhere. This encourages deforestation and degradation of preserved ecosystems, reducing biodiversity and emitting greenhouse gases. Indirect land use change may result in net increases in greenhouse gas emissions from use of biofuels, rather than savings.

3. Bioenergy production must avoid further encroachment on natural habitats. Specifically, biofuel development must avoid areas of exceptional biodiversity, such as Key Biodiversity Areas (including Important Bird Areas). Large-scale biofuel production is a rapidly growing threat to important biodiversity sites. As well as damage to biodiversity directly there may also be negative impacts on the livelihoods and food and environmental security of local communities.

Biofuel development should not take place in Key Biodiversity Areas, places of special importance for biodiversity. The only, rare, exception may be sites in multiple use where such production does not compromise the conservation needs of such sites, as might be the case in sustainable harvesting of natural vegetation or maintaining traditional high nature-value agriculture systems.

4. Effective inter-sectoral national and regional policies, strategies and regulations are needed to guide the investment in and development of biofuel production to avoid negative impacts in terms of biodiversity, land access and food security. The means to promote the positive and avoid the negative impacts of biofuel production and use on biodiversity, and impacts on biodiversity that would affect socio-economic conditions and food and energy security, should be included in policies, strategies and regulations, including regional and national renewable energy policies, national development plans and National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans. The major biofuel crops like maize and wheat are also food crops, and grow on arable land. Their use as biofuels raises pressure on the world food system. The rapid expansion of large-scale biofuel production, often via land purchase or lease by foreign countries or companies, directly competes with community resources such as land, water and labour for food production. This can increase pressure to convert natural habitats for food production. It may also increase dependency on food imports, and with increasingly volatile agricultural commodity prices2, low-income families needing to buy food are vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition. Biofuel production is not the only factor contributing to rapid food price increases in recent years, but it is a major one.

5. International agreement is vital on sustainability standards for the global biofuels market, to ensure biofuel development delivers carbon savings without adversely affecting the environment. BirdLife welcomes the draft decisions inviting Parties to undertake in consultation with all relevant stakeholders the compilation of methodologies, available standards, tools, frameworks, assessments and collaborations on sustainable biofuel production and protocols. Voluntary standards are valuable but in order to fully maximise benefits and avoid impacts all countries must work together to reach international agreement on sustainability standards for the global biofuels market, to ensure biofuel development delivers carbon savings without adversely affecting the environment. In practice this means an accreditation scheme that would ensure policy support is given only to sustainably produced biofuels, while unsustainable practices are discouraged. Safeguards should be put in place before any incentives are given for biofuel production – otherwise such incentives are unacceptably risky.

BirdLife contact in Nagoya: Robert Munroe, Climate Change Officer robert.munroe@birdlife.org 2

(OECD/FAO, 2008)


Birdlife Policy Brief on Biofuels