While much attention has focused on the climate change mitigation potential of biofuels, research from the social sciences increasingly highlights the social and livelihood impacts of their expanded production. Policy and governance measures aimed at improving the social effects of biofuels have proliferated but questions remain about their effectiveness across the value chain. This paper performs three tasks building on emerging insights from social science research on the deployment of biofuel crops. First, we identify livelihood dimensions that are particularly likely to be affected by their cultivation in the global South - income, food security, access to land-based resources, and social assets - revealing that distributional effects are crucial to evaluating the outcomes of biofuel production across these dimensions. Second, we ask how well selected biofuel governance mechanisms address livelihood and equity concerns. Third, we draw insights from literature on non-energy agricultural value chains to provide one set of ideas for improving livelihood outcomes. Our analysis demonstrates that biofuel policies treat livelihoods as a second-degree problem, specifying livelihoods as an afterthought to other goals. We suggest integrating livelihoods into a multi-criteria policy framework from the start - one that prioritizes equity issues as well as overall outcomes. We also show that the instruments with strongest provisions for safeguarding livelihoods and equity appear least likely to be implemented. Together, shifting both the priorities and the relative hierarchy of biofuel governance instruments could help produce strategies that more effectively address livelihood and equity concerns. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.
- Multi-criteria policy