Global agreement on bioenergy guidelines

May 25, 2011
Global bioenergy potential

As biomass energy projects expand throughout Asia, the Global Bioenergy Partnership (GBEP) has announced a framework of indicators to help nations to assess and develop sustainable production and use of bioenergy.

Responding to concerns that bioenergy could have a detrimental effect on global sustainability, the GBEP has hammered out a set of 24 indicators covering the environmental, social and economic aspects of the new technology.

The indicators comprise practical and sustainability elements such as greenhouse gas emissions, biological diversity, the price and supply of a national food basket, access to energy, economic development, and energy security. It is hoped that these guidelines will also appeal to those developing new systems in the developing world.

"Sustainability is key to ensure that bioenergy will reach its potential. It's crucial that producing energy from biomass does not compete with food production: energy crops should be in addition to, and not substitute, food crops," said Corrado Clini, GBEP Chair and Director General of Italy's Ministry for the Environment Land and Sea at the report's launch.

The agreement marks the first global, government-level consensus on a set of voluntary, science-based indicators for assessing the sustainable production and use of bioenergy. The indicators are intended to guide analysis of bioenergy at the domestic level with a view to informing decision making and facilitating the sustainable development of bioenergy in a manner consistent with multilateral trade obligations.

"Through this effort, different entities will voluntarily partner to develop and implement projects and activities intended to build capacity to optimize the contribution of bioenergy to sustainable development, including feasibility studies for market building activities done in cooperation with interested developing countries." said Mariangela Rebuá, GBEP Co-Chair and Director of the Department of Energy of the Brazilian Ministry of External Relations.

The uniqueness of the GBEP work on sustainability lies in the fact that it is currently the only initiative seeking to build consensus among a broad range of national governments and international institutions on the sustainability of bioenergy and in the fact that the emphasis is on providing measurements useful for informing national-level policy analysis and development.

GBEP is made up of public, private and civil society stakeholders and was created to implement the commitments taken by the G8 in the 2005 Gleneagles Plan of Action to support "biomass and biofuels deployment, particularly in developing countries where biomass use is prevalent".

While the agreement is voluntary the membership of the partnership include representatives from 23 nations, including China. A further 22 countries and 9 international organizations and institutions are participating as observers.