David Harnesk presents thesis work at conference in Eindhoven on biofuels and innovation

LUCID PhD candidate David Harnesk recently presented part of the work towards his PhD thesis at a conference in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. The conference, which took place at Eindhoven University of Technology, dealt with: Biofuels and (Ir)responsible innovation, and took place on the 13th and 14th of April. The paper David presented was co-authored by LUCSUS colleague Sara Brogaard and entitled: What kind of, and whose, sustainability counts? – Implications of EU’s renewable energy directive in sub-Saharan Africa. Follow the links for the full conference program and draft versions of the papers presented, including David and Sara’s.

Paper abstract:                            

The European Union plays a globally influential role in environmental legislation, with policies and legislation rooted in particular environmental norms. The means of promotion of renewable energy in the transport sector may serve as a key example of how these norms have an impact beyond the territorial borders of the EU. This process is driven by regulation, including subsidies, and mandatory targets, as well as the sustainability criteria for biofuels included in the Renewable Energy Directive.

This study is based on an analysis of primary and secondary data (interview transcripts, policy documents, and academic literature) from the EU and Tanzania respectively. We identify prevailing norms in the EU liquid transport biofuel regime and their impact on socio-environmental realities in Tanzania, on a national and local level. Drawing on the three theoretical lenses of ecological modernization, weak and strong sustainability, and regulatory capitalism, we illustrate in more detail how norms rooted in EU policy and legislation contribute to reinforcing existing sustainability challenges – especially concerning land use change.

Findings show that the EU liquid transport biofuel regime is best understood through the lens of ecological modernization, while also being an example of weak sustainability, especially relating to its emphasis on technological innovation, and its interchangeable approach to human and natural capital. Through processes of regulatory diffusion, the EU’s environmental norms seem to aggravate sustainability challenges in Tanzania, at least as regards to policy, tenure and land use practices, explored and illustrated in three different settings. To acknowledge and reduce adverse socio-environmental impacts of these values outside the EU, and to adopt a more sustainable approach to natural resources, we suggest a shift towards environmental norms that go beyond ecological modernization and towards a strong sustainability of the transport sector. This in turn underlines the need for a substantial transformation of European societies.

Also at this conference Sara Brogaard presented a paper in production, co-authored by David O’Byrne at LUCSUS, the paper is titled: New narratives in the fuel versus food debate in the aftermath of the 2007/08 food price crises – Perspectives from selected international organizations. The abstract for this paper can be found at here.

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