The Glasgow Declaration on Sustainable Bioenergy aims to guide and support sustainability best practice, and give a framework for driving the right conversations.
No single document can capture the diverse regulations and certifications necessary to ensure bioenergy is always sustainable. But the Glasgow Declaration attempts to provide a starting framework for doing so. It does so by simplifying the core concepts of sustainable bioenergy, and asking how they can apply internationally. This 2023 report aims to explain the Glasgow Declaration, some of the nuances of our public debate on sustainability, and the importance of getting bioenergy right.
“Bioenergy is widely acknowledged to be an essential tool for reaching net zero emissions, but only when delivered under the right conditions.”
Christian Rakos, President of the World Bioenergy Association
“Bioenergy could be a high-value and large-scale mitigation option to support many different parts of the energy system.”
UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2022),
”Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change”
“Sustainable bioenergy is essential for reaching Net Zero.”
UK Climate Change Committee (CCC)
“For bioenergy to survive, thrive, and help beat climate change, it must be sustainable. That means working together to improve trust, understanding and best practice.”
Christian Rakos, President, World Bioenergy Association
The Glasgow Declaration sets out what an expanded bioenergy sector could look like in 2030 and 2050, based on the IEA’s ‘Net Zero Emissions’ scenario:
Always sustainable biomass
Sustainability sits at the heart of bioenergy and its role in combatting climate change. Our industry has worked with governments to set the highest standards and promote industry best practice throughout its international supply chains. These values must be continued as the industry expands to meet the challenge of global Net Zero.
Many examples of sustainable sourcing already exist in current industry practices and regulatory frameworks, which have been developed through science-led collaboration between industry practitioners and governments.
As the bioenergy industry develops internationally, these good practices offer important lessons and frameworks. By setting and following high standards, sustainable bioenergy can be deployed on a global scale to support the transition to a net zero future.
This section sets out the high-level principles which must underpin a sustainable bioenergy industry. These principles do not replace the need for detailed regulation and certification systems, which are important for each jurisdiction to have. As the industry expands to meet global Net Zero, we, as sustainable bioenergy operators, will continue to uphold and promote these high standards of sustainability.
What we mean by sustainable biomass sourcing:
Managing natural resources responsibly
Promote healthy lands and forests
Enable forests to store more carbon
Only use sustainably sourced feedstocks
Avoid and disincentivise negative land use change
Sustainable biomass sourcing contributes positively to sustainable practices in forestry and farming, supporting the continual regeneration of woodlands,a soils and other natural resources while avoiding activities that lead to the depletion of resources, carbon stocks or biodiversity.
Sustainable biomass sourcing contributes to greater carbon storage in the landscape where it is sourced. When carbon storage is analysed at the landscape level it can show that biomass sourcing leads to a positive or neutral balance between growth and harvesting rates. Biomass is not sourced from forests where carbon stocks are declining, except where removing wood supports the health of forests.
Sustainable bioenergy uses feedstocks that lead to good carbon outcomes, such as lower-value agricultural and forestry by-products, low-grade roundwood (including thinnings) and residues, or responsibly grown energy crops. It does not displace products that would have a more positive impact on climate or sustainable development goals.
Transparency and science-based carbon accounting
Adhere to internationally accepted carbon accounting rules
Ensure robust, independent certification systems in the supply chain
Provide transparent and independently audited sourcing data
Account for full lifecycle emissions
Sustainable bioenergy operators follow IPCC’s carbon accounting standards, under which carbon emissions are counted in the land and forestry sector. This ensures reliable international data on carbon stocks in forests and avoids double counting emissions.
Sustainable bioenergy operators employ established and internationally recognised independent certification systems and standards within their supply chains. One example is the independent Sustainable Biomass Program (SBP), which uses third-party auditing to guard against unsustainable land management using a regional, risk-based approach that reflects real-world forest economics.
Sustainable bioenergy operators engage in transparent sourcing and supply policies, providing clear data about the origins of their feedstocks and impact on land use in supply base areas, and impact of other operations. These are communicated transparently via national regulators and other public channels.
Protecting and enhancing biodiversity
Contribute to healthy forest ecosystems
Respect conservation zones
Support the protection of unique habitats
Sustainable biomass sourcing contributes to the management of healthy forest ecosystems and supports ecological restoration. Sustainable bioenergy operators work with suppliers to ensure their operations contribute to the protection and enhancement of the natural environment. Without such management, forests can be more vulnerable to the effects of climate change, through wildfires (as seen in California and Australia), insect infestations (as seen in Canada) and disease (as seen in the UK).
Sustainable bioenergy follows the management plans and supports the conservation goals of local, regional, national and international areas of nature protection, as defined by nation states and the UN, to protect biodiversity.
Sustainable bioenergy sourcing practices contribute to the conservation of unique and sensitive wildlife habitats and help to protect them from loss or degradation by working with our suppliers and stakeholders in the forest. Management of the forest ensures that features and species of outstanding or exceptional value are identified and protected.
Supporting and protecting communities
Protect and invest in our communities
Support land managers in delivering sustainability
Ensure safe operations
Demand employment best practice throughout the supply chain
Respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples
Sustainable bioenergy operators support local forestry and farming communities through employment and training opportunities in sustainable forestry and farming practices.
Sustainable bioenergy operators support land managers and foresters in their sustainable management of the forest resource.
Sustainable biomass sourcing works alongside other sustainable land use sectors such as timber supply and agriculture, helping to improve the safe delivery of land management operations.
Sustainable bioenergy operators act fairly as employers and avoid any exploitation of people connected to their supply chains, such as contractors and their communities.
Download the report
The 2023 report, Transparency, trust and best practice of responsible biomass use, aims to explain the Glasgow Declaration on Sustainable Bioenergy, some of the nuances of our public debate on sustainability, and the importance of getting bioenergy right.DOWNLOAD THE REPORT