Bioenergy is receiving increasing attention because it may reduce greenhouse gas emissions, secure and diversify energy supplies and stimulate rural development. The environmental sustainability of bioenergy production systems is often determined through life-cycle assessments that focus on global environmental effects, such as the emission of greenhouse gases or air pollutants. Local/regional environmental impacts, e.g., the impacts on soil or on biodiversity, require site-specific and flexible options for the assessment of environmental sustainability, such as the criteria and indicators used in bioenergy certification schemes. In this study, we compared certification schemes and assessed the indicator quality through the environmental impact categories, using a standardized rating scale to evaluate the indicators. Current certification schemes have limitations in their representation of the environmental systems affected by feedstock production. For example, these schemes predominantly use feasible causal indicators, instead of more reliable but less feasible effect indicators. Furthermore, the comprehensiveness of the depicted environmental systems and the causal links between human land use activities and biophysical processes in these systems have been assessed. Bioenergy certification schemes seem to demonstrate compliance with underlying legislation, such as the EU Renewable Energy Directive, rather than ensure environmental sustainability. Beyond, certification schemes often lack a methodology or thresholds for sustainable biomass use. Lacking thresholds, imprecise causal links and incomplete indicator sets may hamper comparisons of the environmental performances of different feedstocks. To enhance existing certification schemes, we propose combining the strengths of several certification schemes with research-based indicators, to increase the reliability of environmental assessments.
- Certification schemes
- Criteria and indicators
- Ecosystem services
- Environmental impact
- Eu renewable energy directive