Biofuels have been promoted worldwide under the assumption that they can support several transformativeyet unresolved policy goals, such as transitioning towards a more secure and climate-friendly energy system,while delivering other co-benefits to workers and rural communities. Drawing on the best published evidenceto date on performance, a set of companion papers1 question many of the assumptions commonly attributed tobiofuels: their carbon neutrality, their positive effect on rural livelihoods, and (in cases of under-performance)policymakers’ ability to effectively govern for sustainability. This paper takes these findings as its starting pointand asks, “What next?” for countries wishing to advance national biofuel programmes as one of several optionsfor the necessary divestment from fossil fuels. Deriving recommendations for national biofuel programmesbased on past performance is no easy task. The wider literature highlights some of the challenges to such anendeavour – namely, that context matters deeply in shaping outcomes, thereby undermining the potential forstandardised solutions; that social and natural systems are complex, rendering interventions indeterminate intheir effects; and that deriving proscriptions for future action based on evidence of past performance requiresleaps of evidence and faith, thus involving moral hazards. And even in cases where biofuels come close to meetingexpectations, taking these successes to scale poses additional challenges inherent in the scaling processitself. By drawing on evidence of performance and the wider literature on change management, we are neverthelessable to distil a set of sine qua nons (indispensables) for sustainable biofuel governance. These recommendationsshould not be treated as a recipe for success, but as minimum conditions and “best bet” approachesrequiring testing, deliberation, and refinement through an adaptive, inclusive, and evidence-based approach topolicy design and implementation.
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German, L., Götz, A., Searchinger, T., Tomei, J., de Oliveira, G. L. T., Hunsberger, C. (2016): Sine Qua Nons of Sustainable Bioenergy: DistillingImplications of Under-Performance for National Biofuel Programmes. - IASS Working Paper, October 2016.DOI: http://doi.org/10.2312/iass.2016.024
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