Seeing Like a Standard: EU, sustainable biofuels, and land use change in Africa

  • Marie Widengård School of Global Studies, Gothenburg University, Box 700, SE- 40530 Gothenburg, Sweden marie.widengard@globalstudies.gu.se Phone: +46 76 3364183 Fax: +46 (0)31-786 49 10
  • Andrea Nightingale Department of Urban and Rural Development Swedish University of Agricultural Science (SLU)
  • Peter Roberntz WWF Sweden
  • Tobias Edman Geografiska Informationsbyrån
  • Allan Carlson WWF Sweden
Keywords: Biofuels, land use change, standards, sustainability criteria, EU, sub-Saharan Africa

Abstract

Biofuels have expanded across the globe, generating a range of concerns in the places of production. One approach to controlling the effects of biofuel production has been sustainability standards. This article takes a ‘seeing like’ approach to analyse how the EU Sustainability standard contributes to narrowing the vision of what sustainable biofuels are. Six biofuel cases in Africa are examined through the lens of the standard, using remote sensing to investigate the criteria on land use and canopy cover change. The standard view is also compared to on ground views regarding the sustainability of the projects. The effects of seeing like the EU standard are two: 1) diluted seeing, which prioritises global environmental problems over more nuanced social and institutional aspects; and 2) distributed seeing, which transforms standardised sustainable biofuels into multiple, uncertain forms because of hybrid governance. High carbon losses due to biofuel projects were detected, but at the same time, the standard simplifies and skips over wider problems related to unsustainable biofuel projects.

Author Biographies

Marie Widengård, School of Global Studies, Gothenburg University, Box 700, SE- 40530 Gothenburg, Sweden marie.widengard@globalstudies.gu.se Phone: +46 76 3364183 Fax: +46 (0)31-786 49 10
PhD of Environmental Social Science
Andrea Nightingale, Department of Urban and Rural Development Swedish University of Agricultural Science (SLU)
Professor of Rural Development in the Global South
Peter Roberntz, WWF Sweden
PhD in Forest Ecology & Eco Physiology
Tobias Edman, Geografiska Informationsbyrån
PhD in Biology
Allan Carlson, WWF Sweden
PhD in Nature Conservation Biology
Published
2018-02-28
How to Cite
Widengård, Marie, Andrea Nightingale, Peter Roberntz, Tobias Edman, and Allan Carlson. 2018. “Seeing Like a Standard: EU, Sustainable Biofuels, and Land Use Change in Africa”. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies 17 (1), 49-87. http://acme-journal.org/index.php/acme/article/view/1258.
Section
Research