UK Government sets out ‘bioenergy principles’

The ethical principles proposed by the Council in its 2011 report Biofuels: ethical issues are strongly reflected in the ‘Bioenergy principles’ set out in the Government’s UK Bioenergy Strategy, published in April 2012.

The UK Bioenergy Strategy states:

“The UK Government has a responsibility to ensure that its policies only support bioenergy use in the right circumstances. This strategy is based on a statement of four principles which will act as a framework for future government policy on bioenergy. In summary the four principles state that:

  1. Policies that support bioenergy should deliver genuine carbon reductions that help meet UK carbon emissions objectives to 2050 and beyond.
  2. Support for bioenergy should make a cost effective contribution to UK carbon emission objectives in the context of overall energy goals.
  3. Support for bioenergy should aim to maximise the overall benefits and minimise costs (quantifiable and non-quantifiable) across the economy
  4. At regular intervals and when policies promote significant additional demand for bioenergy in the UK, beyond that envisaged by current use, policy makers should assess and respond to the impacts of this increased deployment. This assessment should include analysis of whether UK bioenergy demand is likely to significantly hinder the achievement of other objectives, such as maintaining food security, halting bio-diversity loss, achieving wider environmental outcomes or global development and poverty reduction.

The Council set out six ethical principles for policy makers, many of which we are pleased to see echoed in the Government Strategy:

  1. Biofuels development should not be at the expense of people’s essential rights (including access to  sufficient food and water, health rights, work rights and land entitlements)
  2. Biofuels should be environmentally sustainable.
  3. Biofuels should contribute to a net reduction of total greenhouse gas emissions and not exacerbate global climate change.
  4. Biofuels should develop in accordance with trade principles that are fair and recognise the rights of people to just reward (including labour rights and intellectual property rights).
  5. Costs and benefits of biofuels should be distributed in an equitable way.
  6. If the first five principles are respected and if biofuels can play a crucial role in mitigating dangerous climate change then, depending on certain key considerations, there is a duty to develop such biofuels.

The Council believes that biofuels policy should be flexible and responsive.The Government agrees, stating that “unlike targets and rules, this principles-based system is flexible enough to remain valid in the face of evolving evidence and technological development and innovation”.

Links

The UK Bioenergy Strategy:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-bioenergy-strategy

The Council’s report Biofuels: ethical issues: 

http://www.nuffieldbioethics.org/biofuels

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Nuffield Council on Bioethics
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WC1B 3JS

bioethics@nuffieldbioethics.org

+44 (0)20 7681 9619

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