Developing an efficient and sustainable biomass supply chain in 5 European Nature Parks

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Sustainability principles

The concept of sustainability is based on the premise that people and their communities are made up of social, economic, and environmental systems that are in constant interaction and that must be kept in harmony or balance if the community is to continue to function to the benefit of its inhabitants— now and in the future. A healthy, balanced society (or nation, or community, depending on the strength of one’s magnifying glass) is one that can endure into the future, providing a decent way of life for all its members—it is a sustainable society. Sustainability is an ideal toward which to strive and against which to weigh proposed actions, plans, expenditures, and decisions. It is a way of looking at a community or a society or a planet in the broadest possible context, in both time and space.

Although it adopts a broad perspective, in practice the pursuit of sustainability is fundamentally a local endeavor because every community has different social, economic, and environmental needs and concerns. And in each community the quality, quantity, importance, and balance of those concerns is unique (and constantly changing). For that reason—and because the best mitigation efforts also tend to be locally based—we tend to speak of sustainability mostly in terms of local actions and decisions.

In the framework of BioEUParks have some sustainability principles have been drafted, each with its own derived policy and operational implications. We should remember that, although the list of principles is useful, each of them has the potential to overlap and inter-relate with some or all of the others.

1. Biodiversity

Principle:
Biomass production and extraction shall not endanger biodiversity at the landscape level. However, special considerations to threatened species shall be taken at the local level. Biomass productions shall whenever possible, strengthen biodiversity and contribute to an increased variation in the landscape.

Indicators:

  • Number and abundance of species at the landscape level
  • Spreading of alien species
  • Land use within the landscape
  • Width of buffer zones

2. Resource efficiency

Principle:
Natural resources, such as soil, water and land, shall be used efficiently and biomass production or extraction shall not endanger soil or cause further deterioration of water quality and quantity.

Indicators:

  • Water quality and quantity
  • Methods and compensatory measures
  • Soil damages
  • Soil nutrient status
  • Local management plans to optimise land use

3. Energy efficiency

Principle:
For a sustainable production and use of bioenergy the energy balance shall be considered, with a special emphasis on the use of fossil sources during production of bioenergy. Input energy shall be minimized throughout the whole production chain and be distributed and accounted for on all products (main and by-products) based on an average product value proportion basis.

Indicators:

  • Part of waste products recycled
  • Use of residues, by-products and waste
  • Energy yield ratio: quantity of useful bioenergy produced per unit of fossil fuel consumed
  • Conversion efficiency: the amount of energy produced as a percentage of the amount of energy consumed according to Directive 2009/28/EC the Member States should promote biomass conversion technologies that achieve a conversion efficiency of at least 85 % for residential and commercial applications and at least 70 % for industrial applications
  • For the production of heat and electricity, the cumulative energy demand for biomass production, extraction and conversion to bioenergy should preferably be less than 20 % of the energy output
  • For the production of liquid biofuels the energy input in biomass production, extraction and conversion should preferably be less than 50 % of the energy output
  • Supply chains of raw materials should be easily followed from production to end-use

4. Climate mitigation efficiency

Principle I:
Greenhouse gas emissions (i.e. emissions of CO2, CH4 and N2O in CO2 equivalents) from bioenergy production and use shall be minimized.

Indicators:

  • The methodology for calculating greenhouse gas emission reductions is described in Directive 2009/28/EC
  • Methods for calculating of greenhouse gas emissions in the land use sector is described in IPCC 2000 Good Practice Guidance for Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry
  • The greenhouse gas emission savings from the production and use of biomass for heat, chill and electricity production should preferably be at least 80 % compared to if fossil fuels had been used
  • The greenhouse gas emission savings from the production and use of liquid biofuels should preferably be at least 50 % compared to if fossil fuels had been used

Principle II:
Biomass production shall not endanger important carbon stocks and GHG emissions caused by land-use change shall be low in relation to the amount of GHG emissions that can be avoided in a long-term perspective.

Indicators:

  • Before a new land area is exploited, the producer shall determine the extent of carbon loss the activities will result in and establish whether the losses will be compensated for by means of the biomass production within the stipulated time period or relevant management cycle
  • All land-use change shall be reported
  • Methods for calculating of greenhouse gas emissions associated with land-use change is described in IPCC 2000 Good Practice Guidance for Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry

5. Social aspects

Principle I:
The production and use of biomass for energy shall not endanger food security or local production of biomass for other applications.

Indicators:

  • Use of waste, residues and by-products for energy
  • No land can be used without the informed consent of the rightful owner

Principle II:
Bioenergy production should not endanger the conservation of cultural remains and heritages or prosperity of local communities and cultures.

Indicators:

  • Documented information opportunities (all neighbours affected by a bioenergy installation should be given the opportunity to be a part of/comment on the project already at the planning stage)
  • Regional planning for land use, including set aside land for recreation

6. Economic issues

Principle:
Bioenergy production, extraction and use should contribute to an increase in rural activity and contribute to the development of viable business and security in energy supply.

Indicators:

  • Rural income
  • Migration to and from rural areas
  • Building of new roads in areas were roads are lacking
  • Creation of employment
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