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GHG goals out of reach without biofuels and bioproducts - new Biofuture report

A landmark new multi-country report commissioned by Biofuture Platform – a government-led, multi-stakeholder initiative states that the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals cannot be met without greater use of biofuels and bioproducts, and reveals the four largest barriers currently impeding further progress.

A new multi-country report commissioned by Biofuture Platform – a government-led, multi-stakeholder initiative states that the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals cannot be met without greater use of biofuels and bioproducts. Launched during COP24 in Katowice, Poland, it was also revealed that the International Energy Agency (IEA) will assume the role of facilitator of Biofutrue Platform in February 2019 (photo courtesy Biofuture Platform).

Launched during COP24 in Katowice, Poland, the report, “Creating the Biofuture: A Report on the State of the Low Carbon Bioeconomy, affirms – in line with models and scenarios by the International Energy Agency (IEA), the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – that biofuels and bioproducts must play an integral role in the global energy transition, in tandem with other complementary mitigation efforts across all sectors.

The report identifies key barriers as:

  • High levels of perceived risk affecting the availability of financial resources for commercial-scale production, holding back necessary research, development, and deployment.
  • Lack of competitiveness for biofuels and other bioproducts relative to fossil fuel-based alternatives in many markets, taking into account fossil fuels subsidies and the comparative cost reductions achieved in a mature industry.
  • Unfavourable policy frameworks that do not effectively coordinate the competing needs of the agricultural economy and food system, a secure and clean energy supply, and the protection of the natural environment.
  • Insufficient, unreliable or expensive supplies of sustainably-sourced feedstock to use in the production of biofuels and other bioproducts.

The report shows the scale of the challenge ahead and adds to a growing international consensus on the importance of bioenergy.

The report’s key lesson is that a package of well-informed, well-designed policies combining market and innovation support is paramount to sustainably producing biofuels, bioenergy, and bioproducts at the scale we need. This is an important milestone for our countries to work towards specific targets and action plans for the low carbon bioeconomy, as set out in the Biofuture Vision Declaration we put forth one year ago in Bonn, said the Minister of Environment of Brazil, Edson Duarte.

A recent major report from the IEA, Renewables 2018, has called attention to the need to put bioenergy at the forefront of the global energy debate.

Modern bioenergy is the overlooked giant of the renewable energy field. Its share in the world’s total renewables consumption is about 50 percent today – as much as hydro, wind, solar and all other renewables combined. We expect modern bioenergy will continue to lead the field, and has huge prospects for further growth. But smart policies and rigorous sustainability regulations will be essential to meet its full potential, said Dr Fatih Birol, Executive Director, IEA.

Commissioned by the Biofuture Platform – a government-led, multi-stakeholder initiative created to support the development of the sustainable, low carbon bioeconomy, the report is based on insights and data from 19 countries and the European Commission, collaborating as members of the Biofuture Platform coalition and the Mission Innovation Sustainable Biofuel Innovation Challenge multilateral initiative.

Bioenergy is a great way of balancing variable electricity production, mainly wind and solar. However, bioenergy’s role in the heating and transport sectors is even more important, and I would say, crucial. Of course, electrifying the transport sector is a major trend, but with biofuels, we can achieve CO2 reductions quickly and with the current transport fleet, said Kimmo Tiilikainen, Minister of Environment, Energy, and Housing of Finland, one of the participating countries along with Brazil, China, France, India, the UK, and the US, among others.

The original technical draft of the report was prepared by the Carbon Trust and Way Carbon consultancies, submitted for review by the participating governments, agencies, and partners, and published by the Government of Brazil in its capacity as the Biofuture Platform Interim Facilitator (a role similar to a Secretariat for the initiative).

Global biofuels output must increase

According to the report, around 130 billion litres of biofuel were produced annually in 2016, in a market worth approximately US$170 billion annually, mostly from sales of first-generation ethanol and biodiesel.

“Fill ’er up please”, another tanker truck filling up a payload of ethanol produced in Hungary by Pannonia Ethanol, Europe’s largest and most modern US-style corn-to-ethanol production plant

“Fill ’er up please”, another tanker truck filling up a payload of ethanol produced in Hungary by Pannonia Ethanol, Europe’s largest and most modern US-style corn-to-ethanol production plant.

Global biofuel output must rise to more than 200 billion litres annually by 2025 and more than 1 100 billion litres annually by 2050 to be in line with long-term climate change mitigation scenarios developed by the IEA and IRENA.

Second and third generation biofuels are emerging but must grow dramatically if Biofuture Platform targets are to be met. These can be made from inputs such as non-food crops, agricultural or industrial waste, and algae, although much of the technology is still evolving and hence not yet commercially deployed at large scale.

As well as outlining barriers, the report provides individual country profiles across existing markets for the bioeconomy and recommends key interventions for support.

To overcome barriers and accelerate the deployment of biofuels and other bioproducts, the report recommends countries establish clear goals and map potential pathways in order to create and deploy a comprehensive package of interventions.

This includes technology and innovation support; policies to support market demand and incentives, tied to sustainability measures and carbon lifecycle assessments; and strong financial instruments designed to enable the development of the bioeconomy.

The SEKAB ethanol industry complex with the Biorefinery Demo Plant in the foreground adjacent to the chemical plant.

According to the report, solid international collaboration and stakeholder engagement will be key to help countries achieve these objectives.

IEA designated Biofuture Platform’s facilitator

The Biofuture Platform also announced that the IEA was designated to assume the role of Facilitator, following the Government of Brazil’s interim tenure. This development comes as part of a major governance overhaul to reinforce the Platform´s position as a key driver of international collaboration to overcome barriers to growth and accelerate the deployment of a sustainable low carbon bioeconomy.

With these internal governance changes, the Biofuture Platform expects to improve its position to drive the reinforced international collaboration called for in its Vision Declaration and in the Creating the Biofuture report, mobilizing governments, industry, academia, and related international initiatives, agencies, and organizations.

IEA’s own vision for this sector has already been fully aligned with the Biofuture Platform’s goals on the low carbon bioeconomy since its launch. I expect this closer collaboration to increase the reach and impact of our work to the benefit of IEA member countries, Biofuture Platform countries, and energy transitions around the world, remarked Dr Fatih Birol, Executive Director, IEA.

About the Biofuture Platform

The Biofuture Platform is a government-led, multi-stakeholder initiative designed to take action on climate change and support the Sustainable Development Goals by promoting international coordination on the sustainable low-carbon bioeconomy. It was launched in Marrakesh at the COP 22 climate talks in November 2016. The government of Brazil has been the Interim Facilitator (Secretariat) of the initiative since its launch.

The Biofuture Platform has 20 member countries: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Morocco, Mozambique, the Netherlands, Paraguay, the Philippines, Sweden, UK, USA, and Uruguay. As a multi-stakeholder initiative, a number of international organizations, academia, and private sector associations are also involved and engaged as official partners. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has been designated to assume this role starting from February 1, 2019.

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