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UNEP calls for new policies on biofuels

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 18 – The production of biofuels would require policy decisions by individual countries especially for large scale production, according to a new report released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said on Friday that past debates on whether or not to produce biofuels, an environment friendly energy option, had not been balanced.

“In an economy like Kenya, the amount that you can in essence invest in efficiency gains is still relatively minor because we do not have an economy where a 100 percent of the population uses electricity,” he said.

Mr Steiner said the report emphasised the need to produce biofuels depending on the natural resource base like land and water of a country.

“If land is scarce, if water is a scarce commodity, then clearly looking at significant biofuel production in addition to securing food production requires very careful planning,” said the UNEP Executive Director.

He said what was lacking on the global market was greater transparency and criteria by which to distinguish biofuels which were sustainable and those that were not.

“That is why we also need some form of agreed international norms, standards and criteria and certification systems.  But for that to happen we need to first agree on the criteria and this has been one of the struggles why the biofuels market has been subjected to so much intensely emotional debate sometimes,” he stated.

The report called for a more sophisticated approach when developing biofuels as an environmentally friendly energy option.

It said governments should fit biofuels into an overall energy, climate, land use, water and agricultural strategy if their use was to benefit society, the economy and environment as a whole.

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The report said the way in which biofuels were produced mattered in determining whether they were leading to more or less greenhouse gas emissions.

The report titled ‘Towards sustainable production and use of resources: Assessing Biofuels’ is based on a detailed review of published research up to mid 2009 as well as the input of independent experts world wide.

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