Critical Stakeholder Perceptions of Carbon and Sustainability Reporting in the UK Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation

This working paper describes investigation of selected stakeholder opinion of UK biofuel and related bioenergy policy over the period September 2006 to December 2009. A fuller report will be available here: and a more condensed journal paper will follow. A review of the sustainability issues associated with some 19 feedstocks (Thornley et al., 2008) is also available at the above website. In this working paper, we describe the process of investigation, our findings and our interpretation of them. The work took place both before and after the Gallagher Report, which was commissioned by the UK government and which advocates a cautious approach to biofuels.

The working paper is written for readers without a social science background, reflecting the EPSRC funding. Our focus is on environmental and social sustainability policy, particularly carbon and sustainability reporting under the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO). The opinions examined are largely, though not wholly, of those stakeholders whose concerns are not well-represented in existing UK biofuel policy. This is despite increasing evidence that the bioenergy and biofuel policy arena is one in which the risks of perverse, unintended consequences is relatively high. As our study progressed, it also became clear that, given our limited resources, one of the more distinctive directions that we could take would be to highlight this particular feature of UK (and EC) bioenergy/biofuels policy, with a view to considering the prospects for a more inclusive policy process.

The bioenergy and biofuels policy domain is substantially different from other technology-focussed environmental policy domains, in that it has strong connections across agriculture, international development, biodiversity protection and climate change arenas. Governance and institutional capacity are also important in this context, in which voluntary environmental and social standards are being called upon to perform quasi-regulatory tasks.

While this complexity is perhaps increasingly understood, it has not prevented the rapid introduction of a proactive biofuel policy in the UK and Europe that many consider hasty.

Upham, P., and J. Tomei