Biofuels: ethical issues


Published 12/04/2011

Report cover
Exhaust emmissions

Costs and benefits of biofuels should be distributed in an equitable way.

The costs and benefits of biofuels production extend well beyond financial losses or gains. There may be associated environmental, political, social, or economic issues that confer benefits or burdens only on certain sections of society. For example, investment in biofuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions may pose threats to the human rights of workers and communities in poorer or more vulnerable countries, whilst delivering benefits for climate change in the developed world.

Selling corn

Policies that encourage biofuels production must therefore balance the needs of local and international markets. There are many examples of successful, small-scale, local biofuels initiatives that provide energy, income and livelihoods in areas that do not produce much fuel, such as in rural Mali. It is important that certification schemes for biofuels should not disadvantage producers in poor countries where small-scale production could provide essential fuel and energy to the local community.

We conclude

Policies should ensure that benefits of biofuels production are shared equitably, for example, through public–private partnerships.

Biofuels policy and future sustainability initiatives should not discourage local, small-scale biofuels production, particularly in developing countries that are fuel poor.