Biofuel Production, Trade and Sustainable Development

Date period
19 December 2008

SummaryBiofuels are a promising source of energy with major implications for global competitiveness, energy security and uncertain social and environmental impacts. Therefore, crafting policy and regulatory frameworks for biofuels nationally and internationally is likely to require intense debate, negotiations and compromise. Building on the current momentum that exists in almost all corners of the world, the stage could be set now for policies and instruments supportive of a biofuels strategy that would expand the benefits of globalization, and improve livelihoods and human wellbeing, while managing the social, economic and environmental challenges.

Extensive analysis has been done in recent years on the technological, environmental and social aspects of biofuel production and trade. This paper aims to provide a succinct overview of these analyses, with a view to identifying the potential opportunities and the limitations associated with large-scale biofuel production, and drawing out relevant lessons for policymakers, businesses and civil society. This study concludes that biofuels for transportation have the potential to contribute to sustainable development. However, the social and environmental benefits are neither intrinsic nor automatic and will be realized only if international and national sustainability standards and incentives that promote and reward environmentally and socially sound biofuel production and trade are put in place.