Survey sustainable Biomass

As part of an array of strategies to combat climate change, biomass is being used increasingly as a substitute for fossil fuels. It is important that the sustainability benefits thus accruing to the Netherlands are not at the expense of sustainable development in producer countries. Against this background the ‘Sustainable biomass imports’ project group, chaired by Professor Jacqueline Cramer, is developing a set of criteria for evaluating the sustainability of biomass projects.

To assess support for such criteria, CE conducted an internet survey among the various stakeholders (NGOs, industry, government), drawing a total of 104 responses. This report presents all the results and conclusions of the survey, for each category of stakeholders and overall.

Among the most striking conclusions are the following:

  • The majority of respondents see a sustainability audit on biomass as feasible, provided the sustainability criteria are adequate for the purpose (68%).
  • Almost all the respondents are of the opinion that such sustainability criteria should apply to all applications of biomass (90%).
  • On the issue of whether these criteria should vary according to the producer region concerned, respondents were divided (50% for, 50% against).
  • Many NGOs state there should be different sustainability criteria in force for different biomass flows (50%), in contrast to industry, which argues for a uniform set of criteria for all flows.
  • Most respondents hold that any biomass criteria should apply to both subsidised and unsubsidised projects.
  • At the same time, a sizable majority of respondents state that subsidisation of biomass projects should depend on the degree of sustainability (72%) and in particular on the CO2 emission cuts achieved, this being regarded as the single most important factor.
  • When it comes to the issue of GMO, opinions differ markedly between NGOs and industry, with some 75% of NGOs wanting this aspect included, but only 10% of industry.
  • Respondents also commented on a number of additional issues of their own accord. Attention was drawn surprisingly often to the importance of small holdings, i.e. ‘family farms’, and maximisation of yields and CO2 reductions per hectare of farmland. It is recommended to take this latter issue on board, in part as a means of elaborating the aspect of ‘preventing competition with food production’ in practical terms.

Based on the survey results, the report concludes with several concrete recommendations on sustainability criteria for biomass. The report published by the Cramer Commission in August 2006 is largely grounded in these survey results and the accompanying evaluation.