The European Union (EU) stands at a crossroads regarding its biofuel policies. For more than a decade, the EU sought to create a market for and govern sustainable biofuels for the transport sector, even as debates over sustainability escalated. It did so by devising novel hybrid (public and private) governance arrangements. We took stock of the nature and outcomes of this experiment in hybrid biofuel governance. We relied on qualitative methods of analysis, whereby we reviewed and synthesized the evolution of EU biofuel governance arrangements over time, through detailed document analysis of secondary and primary literature, including EU and related policy documents and private certification scheme websites. Our analysis reveals that, instead of yielding an increasingly stringent sustainability framework, the hybrid EU governance arrangements resulted in a proliferation of relatively lax, industry-driven, sustainability standards, even as the notion of “sustainable biofuels” remained contested in public and political debate. These findings contribute to an ongoing debate about the merits of hybrid (public–private) governance arrangements, and whether a hybrid approach helps strengthen or weaken sustainability objectives. We conclude that a more stringent EU meta-standard on sustainability needs to be developed, to underpin future governance arrangements.
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