Sustainable Liquid Biofuels in New Zealand: Can Sustainability Standards Help Distinguish the Good from the Bad?
Concerns surrounding the environmental and social impacts of biofuel production have led to the rapid development of biofuel sustainability assessment schemes internationally. The New Zealand government is currently developing a voluntary biofuel sustainability reporting scheme. This thesis assesses the extent to which a sustainability standard could support the domestic biofuels industry, and avoid negative environmental and social impacts associated with biofuel production. It describes the current scope of the domestic biofuel industry, discusses relevant environmental and social concerns relating to biofuel production, and reviews international literature surrounding sustainable biofuel initiatives. From a study of the literature New Zealand biofuels appear more sustainable than most, although direct and indirect land-use change should be included for feedstocks from energy crops. Impacts vary across feedstocks and production methods, and each biofuel must be considered in its own merit. Qualitative semi-structured interviews were undertaken with key stakeholders from industry, relevant government agencies, non-governmental organisations, and biofuel experts to discuss the potential for a domestic biofuels sustainability standard. The majority of stakeholders interviewed supported the development of a government-led sustainability standard, which would include principles addressing greenhouse gas emissions, food security and biodiversity loss. There is good evidence to support the movement towards mandatory sustainability requirements, as soon as this is feasible. In the future, biofuels should be supported by technology-neutral policies (such as carbon-pricing) which reward their benefits, rather than indiscriminately promoting biofuels. The development of enforceable sustainability standards is crucial if biofuels are to contribute to a future low-carbon transport sector in New Zealand.