IDB Launches New Biofuels Sustainability Scorecard; Includes Spatial Analysis/GIS Tool

idbUpdate incorporates feedback from five regional consultations and addresses concerns regarding food security, indigenous peoples and biodiversity preservation

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has released a new version of its Biofuels Sustainability Scorecard, which will enable users to better anticipate the impacts of potential biofuel projects on sensitive issues such as indigenous rights, carbon emissions from land use change, and food security.

The first version of the Scorecard, an interactive, web-based tool that was released a year ago, addressed 23 key variables including greenhouse gas emissions, water management, biodiversity and poverty reduction. The IDB subsequently held five regional meetings to solicit feedback on the Scorecard and began collecting and reviewing hundreds of comments and suggestions submitted by outside experts.

As a result, the updated version of the Scorecard includes new categories to more thoroughly capture the environmental and social dimensions of biofuels investments. Specifically, there are six new social categories that address issues relating to indigenous people, local grower arrangements and impacts on food security, among others.

“This new version of the Biofuels Sustainability Scorecard reflects the wisdom and experience of a wide spectrum of experts in academia, NGOs, multilateral institutions and the investment community,” said IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno. “Biofuels continue to be a compelling energy alternative for many Latin American and Caribbean countries, but it is essential to understand the full lifecycle impacts of a project first. This Scorecard now offers an even more effective way to ensure that proposed biofuel projects are truly sustainable.”

The new version of the Scorecard includes a spatial analysis tool that enables users to quickly access existing Geographic Information System (GIS) data regarding areas for biodiversity preservation. Future versions will add data layers to show the spatial dimensions of categories including water scarcity, cultural sites and high carbon sequestration areas, among others.

User feedback. The new Scorecard also benefitted from the criticisms and suggestions of investors who used the original version. These included the financial backers of Biobahia Oil, a large biofuel complex planned for Northeastern Brazil.

Euroventures, the company behind the project, was finding it difficult to determine the full social and environmental impacts of this ambitious project, which aims to cultivate some 30,000 hectares of land and produce 200,000 tons of biodiesel per year. So Adrian Calvert, in charge of investors’ relations at the company, sought technical assistance for a feasibility study from the IDB’s Sustainable Energy and Climate Change Initiative.

In agreeing to help, IDB experts urged the Biobahia team to run their project through the Scorecard.

“In an increasingly competitive biofuels industry, sustainability has become the key issue in ensuring access to global markets,” said Guillaume Sagez, managing partner of Euroventures. “The IDB Biofuels Sustainability Scorecard has helped us to think through our project plans and find out how we can adopt certain practices to achieve a higher degree of environmental and social sustainability.”

Among other things, Sagez said the Scorecard showed his project team that they would need to look more closely at the carbon emissions that would result from proposed land use changes in the project, along with nitrogen oxide emissions that can be expected from cultivation and fertilizer application.

After using the Scorecard, the Biobahia team suggested improvements to the tool that have now made their way into a new version. Going forward, the IDB plans to continue soliciting input on ways to strengthen the Scorecard. The Bank is part of the Global Bioenergy Partnership and the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels, both global efforts to develop sustainability criteria for biofuels, and IDB specialists will coordinate with the Food and Agriculture Organization to improve the Scorecard over the next year.

[Source: Inter-American Development Bank press release ]