Today Dr Alena Buyx, Assistant Director of the Council, gave oral evidence at a one-off session on bioenergy of the Commons Energy and Climate Change Select Committee.

On being questioned about the Council’s six ethical principles for biofuel policy, Alena emphasised that:
  • The lack of stringent social sustainability criteria in the legislation governing biofuel use was a serious omission. We should only use and import biofuels that have not had a negative impact on the essential rights of people in developing countries, such as access to sufficient food and water, health, work and land rights.

  • The UK should support developing countries in their efforts to establish sustainable bioenergy production.

  • Current policy includes few incentives for the development of new, more ethical types of biofuels. Promising avenues include biofuels made from the non-edible parts of crops (known as lignocellulosic biofuels) and biofuels made from algae, but commercial-scale application is some years away.

  • The Council’s principles should be applied to all related products and technologies, not just biofuels. The ethical robustness of a range of possible pathways could then be assessed when engaging in policy and technology appraisal.

  • Biofuels policy should be set within wider frameworks for mitigating climate change and addressing land use change.

The Chair of the Committee, Tim Yeo MP, said “The Nuffield Council six principles seem to me to be completely beyond argument. I don’t see how anyone can resist them.”

The other panellists were David Kennedy of The Committee on Climate Change, Duncan MacQueen of the International Institute for Environment and Development, and Harry Huyton of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Find out more about the Council’s 2011 report Biofuels: ethical issues