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Chapter 2 - The International Regulation of the Sustainability of Biofuels

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 September 2018

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Summary

1. Introduction

This chapter aims to set forth the international context in which the sustainability of biofuels may be regulated. The international context is firstly explored for the following reasons. Above all, the sustainability concerns about biofuels are largely about environmental and socio-economic impacts on a global scale, especially regarding GHG emissions, biodiversity loss, and food prices. Moreover, the increasing international trade in biofuels has resulted in biofuel production in developing countries where environmental and socio-economic sustainability impacts are most evident. Next, mapping the international terrain may assist in exploring the question that to what extent the rules on the sustainability of biofuels have been internationally harmonised and what room is left for domestic law to regulate. This exploration is necessary particularly when there is no multilateral treaty on biofuels and sustainability concerns such as GHG emissions, biodiversity loss, food and land use right are respectively subject to different international regimes on climate change, biodiversity, and socio-economic rights.

Following the analytical model of ‘demand-supply-trade’, this chapter respectively examines the biofuel sustainability-related norms under the international regimes of climate change, biodiversity, and socio-economic rights. On the demand side, although international law hardly mandates the use of biofuels, the GHG emission limitation norms under the international climate change regime may constitute an essential reason for states to promote the consumption of biofuel. As for supply, the international biodiversity conventions and international socio-economic treaties contain states’ commitments to the protection of biodiversity and socio-economic rights, so that states may need to refrain from producing biofuels which would be detrimental to these commitments. Finally, international trade law is relevant where the sustainability requirement of one state is applied to the biofuel produced in a third country.

This chapter is structured as follows. In section 2, norms under international climate regime, especially those addressing the GHG emission reduction obligation and calculation, are examined to assess their relevance for the demand for biofuels. Section 3 examines the international biodiversity regime, in particular the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Ramsar Convention, in order to explore the norms relating to the production of biofuels. Furthermore, the provisions addressing the right to food and land under the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) are examined in relation to the production of biofuels.

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Different Paths Towards Sustainable Biofuels?
A Comparative Study of the International, EU, and Chinese Regulation of the Sustainability of Biofuels
, pp. 29 - 94
Publisher: Intersentia
Print publication year: 2016

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