Measures proposed to drive sustainable biofuels

A draft carbon and sustainability reporting system and a requirement for transport fuel suppliers to meet sustainability standards by 2011 were announced by the Department for Transport today

Fuel suppliers will have to blend 5% of biodiesel or bioethanol into fuel by 2010, under a Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) due to start in April 2008.

But environmental groups are worried that biofuels could encourage forest clearance abroad for crops and the spread of intensive agriculture.

The DfT said today that from April 2010, the compliance certificates will be awarded according to the amount of carbon they save compared to conventional fuels, and from 2011, “only if they meet appropriate sustainability standards”. The plans are subject to international trade rules and EU technical standards.

The government’s consultation on the RTFO, which closed in May, said fuel companies will only be awarded certificates if they report the fuel’s carbon savings and sustainability impacts. The DfT sees the reporting system as the first step towards a mandatory assurance scheme that would reward biofuels based on their carbon intensity and penalise those from unsustainable feedstocks.

Today’s consultation outlines the draft requirements and guidance for carbon and sustainability reporting.

The government proposes to set targets for three key aspects of the reporting scheme:

  • 50% of biofuels should meet a qualifying sustainability standard in 2009/10, rising to 80% in 2010/11.
  • Fuels should have an annual greenhouse gas saving of 40% over fossil fuels in 2008/09, 50% in 2009/10 and 60% in 2010/11.
  • Suppliers should be able to complete 35% of relevant data fields within monthly reports in 2008/09, 65% in 2009/10 and 80% in 2010/11.

Suppliers will also have to produce annual reports, or could face a penalty.

Annual reports should be independently verified and cover environmental management system certificates such as ISO14001, existing verified environmental or corporate responsibility reporting, and actions to source sustainable and lower carbon biofuels.

The consultation also explains how to calculate the carbon intensity of a batch of biofuel in order to report under the RTFO.

The government has also asked the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnershp to explore a voluntary labelling scheme for sustainable biofuels.

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