A forester’s perspective
Enrique Riegelhaupt and Teresita Arias Chalico
Mexico has recently taken significant steps towards promoting the bioenergy sector. Adoption of bioenergy is perceived as an opportunity to develop alternatives to fossil fuels, to foster economic development and to meet international commitments to reduce greenhouse gases. However, such opportunities are accompanied by concerns such as the effect of biofuel production on deforestation rates – concerns that may be addressed through policy instruments and proper program design. Therefore, this country report contains an analysis of the legal and institutional frameworks related to Mexico’s bioenergy sector.
The relationship between biofuel development and tropical deforestation is complex. It is difficult to detect direct links and to quantify these at the global level, due to limited data availability. These limitations include: the lack of time series data on deforestation at sufficient resolution on the global scale; the lack of information on the geographical location of biofuel cultivation areas; much of the deforestation related to biofuel cultivation being indirect through displacement of other agriculture; much of the biofuel cultivation being very recent; and, that many biofuel feedstocks are multipurpose (biofuels often represent only a small proportion of larger food and fodder production systems).
In this article, we attempt to find the spatial relations between deforestation and biofuel production at global level by analyzing available global deforestation and biofuels data, and find that, for a variety of reasons relating to data availability and its characteristics, and the way biofuels are produced, this task is extremely difficult if not virtually impossible. Then we bring down the scale of the analysis to the case study level and provide a detailed methodology for analyzing the spatial relation between deforestation and biofuel development. We argue that this multi-scale approach, based on systematic sampling at the case study level would help to better understand the relation between biofuels and deforestation. Given the fact that biofuels are a highly contested approach to reduction of global carbon emissions, and that different lobbies in this debate are making claims that deforestation is, or is not, occurring as a result of the expansion of biofuel production, clarity on the methodological difficulties of making statements of this kind, at least in a global spatial analysis, may help avoid false conclusions being promulgated in the future.
With the rapid growth of biofuel production and consumption, and the proliferation of policy decisions supporting this expansion, concerns about the biofuel sector’s environmental and social impacts are increasing. Consequently, a range of actors – among them governments, multilateral institutions, nongovernmental organisations and multistakeholder industry groups – have created sustainability frameworks, some mandatory, others voluntary. This report examines how the most developed sustainability frameworks for feedstock production (including biofuels) address key environmental issues. It identifies critical gaps in these frameworks and proposes areas for improvement. The frameworks analysed are the European Union Renewable Energy Directive (EU RED), Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB), Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), Round Table on Responsible Soy Association (RTRS), Better Sugarcane Initiative (BSI) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).