Biofuels: ethical issues


Published 12/04/2011

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Exhaust emmissions

Biofuels should be developed in accordance with trade principles that are fair and recognise the rights of people to just reward (including labour rights and intellectual property rights).

Fair trade

Low wages and unfair prices for farmers and labourers have been associated with biofuels production in developing countries. On the other hand, the increasing global market for biofuels may provide additional income and new jobs in these countries. Although the Renewable Energy Directive demands that workers in all countries that produce EU biofuel inputs are fairly paid, it is not clear whether countries outside the EU abide by these protective policies.

We conclude

Biofuels targets set by the EU and the UK Government should promote fair trade principles. Any changes to the targets must carefully consider the possible impacts on developing countries.

EU and national trade principles developed as part of biofuels regulation should be proportionate and take into account the differences between countries and production systems, whilst also protecting vulnerable populations.

Intellectual property

In many cases, biofuels production is only feasible after very large initial investment. Intellectual property will play a key role in recouping investment and securing future profits for investors. An appropriate licensing scheme may help balance the interests of the parties involved.

We conclude

The UK Intellectual Property Office should develop a licence scheme for biofuels and a framework of principles and best practices based on current international guidelines.

More research should be carried out on the economic and social impacts of intellectual property in this field.