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Europe's Biofuel Industry Falls Short on Sustainability Standards, WWF Says

Nov 29, 2013 01:31 PM EST

A new analysis of the standards and practices used in Europe to assess biofuel sources falls sort of ensuring that the push to increase the presence of biofuels is not contributing to environmental destruction or social exploitation, the World Wildlife Fund reported Thursday.

Many of the standards used by the EU to assess biofuel industry practices fell in the middle- to low-performance brackets, the WWF reported, adding that although the EU aims to protect area's of high biodiversity and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the standards in place do not do enough to ensure the goals are being sufficiently met.

The WWF study assessed the certification standards used by the EU against a WWF-developed Certification Assessment Tool (CAT). The study revealed that the EU standards lack criteria for ensuring the preservation and improvement of air, ground and water quality. There is also a lack of criteria for the use of agrochemicals and no formal standards banning the use of child or slave labor.

"Poisoned water and polluted soil is too high a price to pay for a full petrol tank," said Imke Lübbeke, Senior Renewable Energy Policy Officer at WWF European Policy Office. "While biofuels are one way to cut our dependence on fossil fuels, EU regulations remain too weak to ensure that the biofuels we use in Europe - whether imported or domestically produced - are environmentally and socially sustainable."

The WWF study concluded that while all the current biofuel industry practices met the mandatory EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED) requirement, these steps were not enough to ensure sustainability.

"A number of the standards, specifically the ones created to comply with the EU RED, lacked or had inadequate criteria on issues such as waste management, compliance with labor laws and social legislation and paid insufficient attention to potential biofuel impacts on food security. Many did not require restoration of the native vegetation of riparian and other important areas," the WWF wrote in a statement.

Several of the standards also scored low on key registers such as transparency, auditor accreditation and the adequacy and strength of audit checks.

"The upcoming revision of the EU Renewable Energy Directive must now be used to close unacceptable gaps in the requirements," Lübbeke said. "Having talked the talk, the EU must now walk the walk and ensure that the production of the biofuels we use in Europe is sustainable and free from human rights abuses and exploitation. In particular, a scheme designed to reduce emissions needs to fully account for all emissions."

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