Contributed by: Beth Maclin, Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center

In the United States and Europe, biofuels are perceived to come with both opportunity and costs. They offer the opportunity to reduce imported oil dependence and improve the environment. The costs, however, include high food prices, indirect carbon emissions and biodiversity loss. In many tropical developing countries, biofuels represent an opportunity to progress toward industrialization and export-led growth. Policies adopted by industrialized countries will largely determine whether or not this opportunity is realized.

In "Certification Strategies, Industrial Development and the Making of a Global Market for Biofuels," a discussion paper released by Harvard University’s Sustainability Science Program and the Belfer Center’s Environment and Natural Resources Program at the Harvard Kennedy School, Ricardo Hausmann and Rodrigo Wagner lay out five organizing principles for maximizing the development impact of a global biofuel market.
  • Provide certainty for production in places that do not have it, but do so in a way that promotes competitiveness.
  • Directly focus certification processes on impacts that can be observed by a third party as opposed to indirect impacts that cannot be clearly attached to biofuels production.
  • Understand that societies have multiple goals: energy efficiency, reducing carbon emissions, rural development, food security and biodiversity. Policies to meet those goals should be targeted and specific. Do not try to protect the world’s forests though bioenergy regulation, rather protect them through polices aimed to reduce deforestation.
  • Minimize transaction costs and avoid adding administrative burdens.
  • Create "scaffolding regulations," which are a flexible set of norms that can accommodate future changes in the policy and regulatory environment.
The paper calculates the potential of a global bioenergy market in poor tropical countries and lays out the challenges that would have to be met if the potential is to be realized.

Both the United States and European Union are in the process of designing policies governing the sale of biofuels to meet recently enacted standards. This paper provides a framework to guide policymakers as they attempt to balance environmental protection and economic growth in the world’s poorest countries.

"Certification Strategies, Industrial Development and the Making of a Global Market for Biofuels," by Ricardo Hausmann and Rodrigo Wagner, was written for the "Biofuels and Certification" session held at the Harvard Kennedy School on May 11 and 12, 2009, with financial support from the Sustainability Science Program and the Italian Ministry for Environment, Land and Sea.

The full paper is available at: here


category: Biofuel