Review of policy frameworks to promote sustainable biofuels with low GHG emissions

Jan 2023

With recommendations to improve the robustness of compliance and verification approaches for feedstock-to-biofuel supply chains for the global biofuel market


Emission reduction and climate change mitigation are the driving force behind the production and use of biofuels. As a result, the overall sustainability and the reduced carbon intensity of the final fuel has become increasingly a priority. Currently, several sustainability and greenhouse gas (GHG) requirements are implemented in policy frameworks for feedstock-to-biofuel supply chains in different regions of the world. In some of these policy frameworks (e.g., EU-RED, ICAO-CORSIA) regulation has (partially) outsourced public enforcement and monitoring compliance with these requirements through the recognition of private certification schemes, increasing their importance. Consequently, different approaches and methods for compliance and verification have evolved with the aim to demonstrate in practice the sustainability of biofuels and its GHG emission savings.

The objective of the analysis in this report – carried out in the frame of IEA Bioenergy Task 39 – is to better understand how existing compliance and verification approaches for feedstock-to-biofuel supply chains differ, and to improve comprehension of the implications of those (regional) differences. This, to give general recommendations and perspectives for decision-makers on how to improve the robustness of compliance and verification approaches for feedstock-to-biofuel supply chains for the global biofuel market and to guarantee the sustainability of biofuels including its GHG emission savings through the supply chain.

The full report is available here
Improvement opportunities for low carbon sustainable biofuel policies and certification schemes


The following policy frameworks have been considered:

  • Biofuel mandates in Australia (with a focus on the States of Queensland and New South Wales)
  • National policy on Biofuels in India
  • The RenovaBio policy in Brazil
  • The Low Carbon Fuel Standard in California (CLCFS)
  • The (draft) Clean Fuel Regulations in Canada.
  • The EU Renewable Energy Directive (EU RED II), and how this is further implemented in Germany, Netherlands, Austria.
  • The EU ETS, with a focus on reducing emissions in the aviation sector
  • The ICAO CORSIA Framework (for aviation).
  • The Dutch policy framework on solid biomass, as an example for implementing national sustainability requirements, and the verification and monitoring thereof.

The analysis concludes that differences exist between the selected policy frameworks on a range of issues. These issues are interrelated and a combination of – even small – differences results in differences in the level of stringency and robustness of policy frameworks on the sustainability of biofuels including its GHG emission savings. Differences between the policy frameworks are found in:

  • GHG emission saving calculations
  • Approaches on direct and indirect land use change and maintenance of areas with a high carbon stock and/or biodiversity
  • Other land-related sustainability requirements
  • The coverage of socio-economic criteria
  • The categorization of feedstocks, especially of wastes and residues
  • The recognition criteria for certification schemes and the conditions under which these are recognized.
  • The verification and assurance requirements that are defined for certification bodies when evaluating conformance to the applicable standards
  • The minimum requirements for the Chain of Custody
  • The type of information required to be submitted by the economic operator at the end of the supply chain to the respective authority
  • Monitoring compliance of the standards and their certification or verification bodies, and consequences of non-compliance

The report concludes that the global sustainability framework for biofuels is as strong as its weakest link, and in a sector where biofuels and its feedstock are internationally traded, there is a risk that feedstock flows move to, or are traded through countries with less enforcement or less stringent rules. Obviously, this may affect overall biofuel trade, but more importantly also the overall robustness of the system.

It is therefore crucial to further align and harmonize, where possible, definitions, sustainability criteria, GHG emission reduction requirements and GHG LCA methodologies, and related certification and verification requirements to improve the robustness of compliance for sustainable feedstock-to-biofuel supply chains for the global biofuel market.

The report formulates specific recommendations for the following topics:

  1. Harmonize approaches on sustainability criteria and GHG emission reduction requirements (including LCA models)
  2. Improve the categorization and correct identification of feedstocks
  3. Strengthen the minimum level of robustness for certification or verification schemes
  4. Set minimum requirements for Chain of Custody (CoC) models and harmonize the transfer of information through the supply chain
  5. Strengthen the correctness and completeness of information at the end of the supply chain
  6. Improve the public and private supervision to monitor compliance


Full reference of the report:

Jinke van Dam, Sergio Ugarte (2022). Improvement opportunities for low-carbon, sustainable biofuel policies and certification schemes – Part 1: A review of policy frameworks. Report for IEA Bioenergy Task 39. May 2022.