Representatives from across the bioenergy industry have welcomed the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report with its emphasis on tighter regulation to ensure sustainability so bioenergy delivers positive impacts on the climate, environment, and communities.
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Bioenergy, which uses organic materials and wastes as fuel, helps to displace reliance on fossil fuels and could be particularly valuable for sectors with limited alternatives to fossil fuels, such as aviation and other hard-to-abate industries, say scientific advisors.
The IPCC’s scientists have again said that sustainable bioenergy is essential for achieving net-zero and avoiding catastrophic climate change both as a provider of renewable energy and a way to remove carbon from the atmosphere, said Dr Nina Skorupska, Chief Executive of the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA).
Combining bioenergy with ‘carbon capture and storage’ could double the potential role of bioenergy in reducing humanity’s carbon emissions (TS, p.86)
Reiterates need for bioenergy at scale
The fact that the use of woody biomass under the right conditions leads to less net CO2 emissions than combustion of coal or gas is virtually undisputed within science, as is also apparent from the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said Dr Gert-Jan Nabuurs, IPCC report co-author in October 2021.
Amongst other things, the report says that:
- Bioenergy offers an “important” way to mitigate climate change. This is consistent with the IPCC’s previous scientific estimates, the report says. (Ch.7, p.6)
- Much more bioenergy is needed to limit climate change. The IPCC’s models project bioenergy use to rise significantly, from 30 Exajoules (EJ) at present to between 75 and 248 EJ by 2050, in order to avoid catastrophic climate change. This is within the body’s estimate for sustainable sourcing of bio-based fuels, taking into account environmental and food security constraints. (Ch.3, p.57)
- Carbon capture is vital. Carbon dioxide (CO2) removal technologies, such as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), are “unavoidable if net-zero CO2 or GHG emissions are to be achieved.” (SPM, p.47)
- “Bioenergy could be a high-value and large-scale mitigation option to support many different parts of the energy system. Bioenergy could be particularly valuable for sectors with limited alternatives to fossil fuels (e.g., aviation, heavy industry) and production of chemicals and products and carbon dioxide removal via BECCS or biochar.” (Ch. 6, p.39)
- Additional benefits: “Climate-smart forestry” allows the production of bioenergy alongside improvements to nature conservation and biodiversity, local economics, and carbon storage. (Ch.7, p.78)
- Strong regulation is crucial. The report advises policymakers and stakeholders to “draw on lessons from experience…”, noting that socio-economic and environmental trade-offs “can be avoided by well-implemented land-based mitigation options,” including well-developed regulations and best practices. (SPM, pp.44, 53)
Welcomed by bioenergy stakeholders
Representatives from across the bioenergy industry have welcomed the report with its emphasis on tighter regulation to ensure sustainability so bioenergy delivers positive impacts on the climate, environment, and communities.
We welcome the IPCC’s focus on sustainability and regulation to ensure that well-managed bioenergy delivers positive climate, environmental and social outcomes. The science is clear. We need every tool in the toolbox to mitigate climate change and hold down global warming as much as possible. Sustainable bioenergy is a crucial part of the pathway to Net Zero, and the world must act now to scale up this important climate solution, said Dr Christian Rakos, President of the World Bioenergy Association (WBA).
At COP26, industry members signed the “Glasgow Declaration on Sustainable Bioenergy” setting out 16 principles for sourcing sustainable bioenergy that can form the foundation for regulations.
Bioenergy Europe welcomes the new IPCC WGIII Report on Mitigation of Climate Change. Scientists once more confirm the need for urgent measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and end fossil fuels use. The report validates that sustainable biomass remains a solid ally to accelerate the green transition and eventually reach a climate-neutral economy in the EU by 2050. It is an integral part of the EU’s efforts to achieve the ambitious climate and energy targets envisaged within the European Green Deal, said Jean-Marc Jossart, Secretary-General of Bioenergy Europe.