Liquid, gaseous or solid biofuels hold great promise to deliver an increasing share of the energy required to power a new global green economy. Many in government and the energy industry believe this modern bioenergy can play a significant role in reducing pollution and greenhouse gases, and promoting development through new business opportunities and jobs. Modern bioenergy can be a mechanism for economic development enabling local communities to secure the energy they need, with farmers earning additional income and achieving greater price stability for their production.

But it is not that simple. Biofuels remain a complex and often contentious issue. Over the past few years the risks of competition with food production and potential negative impacts on the atmosphere, biodiversity, soil and water have been highlighted. The way biofuels are made and used is critical: they may either help mitigate or contribute to climate change, reduce or exacerbate impacts on ecosystems and resources.

Issues related to biofuels are complex and interconnected: they require solid planning and balancing of objectives and trade-offs. Safeguards are needed and special emphasis should be given to options that help mitigate risks and create positive effects and co-benefits.

Biofuels Vital Graphics is designed to visualise the opportunities, the need for safeguards, and the options that help ensure sustainability of biofuels to make them a cornerstone for a Green Economy. It is meant as a communications tool, rather than providing new analysis. It builds on a 2009 report by the International Panel for Sustainable Resource Management of the United Nations Environment Programme, Towards Sustainable Production and Use of Resources: Assessing Biofuels, and refers to research produced since.

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