Exporting the FSC ‘model’ to biofuels?

FSC-Watch was interested to learn recently that FSC Executive Director, Heiko Liedeker, has joined the Steering Board of the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB), which is based in the Federal Polytechnic (EPFL), Lausanne, Switzerland.

According to its website, the newly established RSB “is a multi-stakeholder initiative to develop international standards for sustainable biofuels production and processing, hosted by the Energy Center at EPFL. The Roundtable will bring together non-governmental organizations, companies, governments, inter-governmental organizations, experts, and other concerned parties to draft principles and criteria to ensure that biofuels deliver on their promise of sustainability.”

Liedeker will be joined on the Steering Board of the RSB by luminaries including Claude Martin, former Director General of WWF (under whose leadership WWF moved ever closer to the interests of the corporate sector); Rolf Hartl, of the Federation of Swiss Oil Companies; and Rebecca Heaton of BP.

Followers of the FSC will recognise the RSB’s proposed modus operandi. Liedeker, who has consistently talked away the failures of FSC as being mere ‘teething problems’, repeatedly saying that ‘FSC will do better in future’, will no doubt find much common ground with another of his new colleagues on the RSB Steering Board, Christopher Frei. Frei is Director for Energy Industries & Strategy at the World Economic Forum, the meeting point for the world’s most powerful businesses and government leaders. Frei has dismissed some of serious problems with biofuels, saying that “Clearly, competition with food agriculture and sustainable production schemes are potentially problematic. However, these cannot be the true obstacles, as they can be addressed, for example by a labeling approach similar as used with bio-food, wood (Forest Stewardship Council), fish (Marine Stewardship Council), etc.”

Regular readers of FSC-Watch will no doubt be alarmed at the suggestion that the obscene prospect of what George Monbiot has described as ‘feeding cars instead of people’, can be dismissed simply by using a certification scheme such as the FSC. The miserable failure of FSC to really guarantee sustainable (or even legal) forestry, should be a major lesson when considering how to ensure that biofuels become part of the solution, not part of an even bigger problem. The transfer of FSC’s serious structural weaknesses into the certification of even more complex and opaque commodity markets such as soya beans and palm oil is to invite disaster.

George Monbiot has also described the pretence by governments that they are tackling climate change through the increased use of biofuels as ‘plain fraud’. Using an FSC-type approach to ‘certification’ of biofuels could become a central part of this fraud.

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