Carbon and Sustainability

Central to the RTFO is the carbon and sustainability (C&S) reporting system. Significantly different levels of carbon emissions are caused by producing biofuels from different feedstocks from different countries using different processing technologies. We report the carbon emissions of biofuels based on a full ‘lifecycle analysis’ of emissions all throughout the production chain.

Our Carbon and Sustainability Technical Guidance provides ‘default factors’ for carbon savings based on common practice for specific feedstocks, countries and processes. These can be used depending on how much information suppliers have about their biofuels. Our defaults are conservative, generally based on worst common practice, to encourage suppliers to find out more detailed information about their biofuels, as this will often allow them to report lower carbon emissions.

The system is designed to influence production and processing to achieve better carbon savings, for instance by encouraging best practice on reducing the use of nitrogen fertiliser or using biomass instead of coal to power processing plants.

We also have a set of sustainability criteria, the RTFO Meta-Standard, for environmental and social sustainability. Fuels meeting the environmental standard must be grown with due regard for protecting biodiversity; carbon stocks; and soil, air and water quality. To meet the social standard, workers’ rights and land rights must be respected. Suppliers of biofuels must report whether their feedstocks have been assessed against the criteria, either directly or by certification to an existing scheme that covers enough of the criteria to be a ‘Qualifying Standard’.

The RFA’s reporting on the carbon emissions and sustainability of biofuels is world leading, and as other nations in the EU and elsewhere introduce their own biofuels incentives and mandates many of them are looking to us for guidance.

We are also aware that our system has limitations – perhaps foremost among these is that it does not as yet deal with the emissions from indirect land-use change identified by the Gallagher Review. Our Technical Guidance is constantly being developed.

Last Modified: 23 Mar 2010