RSB puts indirect effects on hold as process moves forward

By Susanne Retka Schill | August 19, 2009
Posted September 1, 2009

The Roundtable for Sustainable Biofuels is considering setting aside the issues surrounding indirect impacts for future consultation with experts as it continues to make progress towards devising an internationally-recognized system for certifying sustainable biofuels. RSB is looking for organizations to test the new standards in pilot projects, as well as recruiting membership in one of its 11 sector-specific chambers.

In its late August newsletter, RSB said that while indirect impacts, such as commodity prices and indirect land use change are extremely important, "it is difficult to address them through a standard that operates at the project level. Experts will thus advise us on how best to include these issues into the standard in the future." That and other modifications to Version Zero are expected to be completed for publication by early 2010.

In addition to analyzing comments to Version Zero and crafting Version One of the RSB principles and criteria, the organization has begun to move from a steering committee structure, to a formal governance structure. With a goal of reaching a balance among different stakeholders in biofuels worldwide, RSB members are asked to join one of 11 chambers with each chamber electing two representatives to the governing steering board, one from the global north and one from the global south (representing developing countries).

A number of familiar names appear in the list of over 100 participants from 27 countries that had joined by mid-summer. The National Biodiesel Board, Canadian Renewable Fuels Association, European Biodiesel Board, Archer Daniels Midland Co., BP Biofuels UK Ltd., Poet Inc. are named in the chamber of industrial biofuel producers, the chamber with the largest number of members to date at 25 members. The United Soybean Board, the National Corn Growers Assoc. and Canola Council of Canada are among members in the chamber for farmers and growers of biofuel feedstocks. Aviation is represented in the chamber for retailers, blenders and transportation industry with Boeing, Delta Airlines and the International Air Transport Association.

Other chambers include banks and investors, rights-based nongovernmental organizations, rural development and food security organizations, environment and conservation organizations, climate change and policy organizations, trade unions, smallholder farmer organization and indigenous people's organizations. The eleventh chamber includes intergovernmental organizations, consultants, certification agencies, standard-setters and government agencies. The Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance, National Renewable Energy Laboratory and University of California Berkeley are among the members of the eleventh chamber. For a complete list of members, and links to join, visit the RSB Web site.

As the organization moves towards the new governing structure, the chairmanship recently changed from the head of WWF-Switzerland (World Wildlife Federation) to Barbara Bramble, senior program advisor for international affairs at the National Wildlife Federation. Richard Sykes, executive secretary of the International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association, serves as vice chairman. Bramble reported in the August RSB newsletter thatseveral board members met with the European Union transportation directorate in July, who encourage the RSB to apply to be recognized for the EU Renewable Energy Directive. "The RSB may well be the first voluntary cerfication system to be so approved, and if successful, would give us a leading role in working out international rules for 'better biofuels' production," she said.
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