New biodiesel methodology may threaten peatlands

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From the IMCG Newsletter: New CDM biodiesel methodology may threaten peatlands

John Couwenberg and Hans Joosten investigate yet another poor methodology that has been recently approved by the CDM Executive Board, ACM0017, which targets projects in biodiesel made specifically from agrofuel crops (not be mixed with another methodology that deals with biodiesel made from waste oil and waste fats).  One concern with ACM0017 is that encouraging the conversion of land dedicated to production of biofuel crops will compete with land designated for food production or conservation practices, among many other land uses, and a second concern is that developers are incentivized to deforest to plant such biofuel crops.

However, the bigger problem is that the new ‘approved consolidated baseline and monitoring methodology – Production of biodiesel for use as fuel’ only supports carbon credits from designated plantations established on degraded lands or lands degrading at the start of the project activity.  Here, the methodology’s definition of biodiesel leaves the possibility of producing  biodiesel from fossil peat (if peat is indeed considered a biomass), therefore supporting peatland drainage for biofuel purposes.  In addition, the classification of degraded lands or lands degrading is amplified by the issue of drained peatlands being classified as “degraded land”.

The authors include previous research with alarming findings: oil palm and other crops grown on peat soil actually result in little carbon losses from degraded peat and–with the help of habitat destroying, emissions rich peatland drainage–result in a higher emissions factor compared to that of conventional fossil fuels.  Thus, we can imagine that the calculations of actual reduction in GHG emissions under ACM0017 are harshly deceptive, making this a CDM methodology that will severely backfire.