Theory, Practise and Quality Assurance
Evaluating Sustainable Development series
Edited by Anneke von Raggamby and Frieder Rubik
Chapter 10: Science-Policy Interface and the Role of Impact Assessments in the Case of Biofuels
Bernd Hirschl, Timo Kaphengst, Anna Neumann and Katharina Umpfenbach ___________________________________________________ INTRODUCTION The promotion of biofuels has caused more societal controversies and tension than almost any other environmental topic has in recent years. After the conflict came to a head in 2007, embodied by the catch-phrase ‘food versus fuel’, policy-makers reacted. Presently, the approach is to avoid the worst socio-ecological risks by simultaneously implementing sustainability criteria and maintaining promotional policies for biofuels. However, the conflict continues to exist with the same intensity and some are now calling the feasibility and effectiveness of this new approach into question. But how was this ‘sustainability approach’ in biofuels policy developed and which actors influenced its development? How big a role did scientific findings play within the political process as compared to lobbying? Did scientists fail to indicate relevant sustainability problems early enough? If not, was it the European Commission or European politicians that did not heed the early warnings? Finally, the important question arises: did impact assessments (one of the main instruments used by the European Commission to examine the effects of policy proposals on society and the environment) fail within the context of biofuels? The following section ‘Background and political framework’ gives a short introduction to the EU’s biofuels policy as well as to the Commission’s impact assessment (IA) and its context. Building on this, the section ‘Analysis of the sience policty interface’ clarifies how studies have influenced the decision-making process regarding renewable energy policies and, more specifically, concerning biofuels. Based on a comparative...
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