What’s the Buzz? Heard on the floor at the COP24, on renewable fuels and more : Biofuels Digest

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COP24 descends on Katowice, Poland. What’s the buzz, what’s the mood?

The Mood

“Pretty intense I’d say. Good.” notes Climate Ethanol Alliances’s James Cogan. “We’ve been in a dozen transport energy events so far.”

The Message

Climate Ethanol Alliance’s James Cogan handing out bio-oriented t-shirt messaging at COP 24.

“Fortunately the IEA had their big event today, and they shouted it loud and clear..  “use bioenergy in transport or suffer the consequences”. The Brazil pavilion just had a good event too. We’ve giving them t-shirts with the IPCC Report findings.”

The Buzz

Most discussions here about climate progress in transport get to the hand-wringing stage of recognizing the urgency and scale of progress needed, but falling short of saying what should be done.  So it’s a lot of arm chair generals. We’ve been intervening at every point to say (a) the UN’s Special Report says bioenergy is as important as electromobility for the next four decades and (b) no policy discussion can be meaningful unless it looks at the cost of the different measures, and regular ethanol is the cheapest climate measure in transport by a long shot.  We believe we’re being successful in getting people to listen and to make the step forward.

The New Report

A landmark new multi-country report launched today states that the world’s greenhouse gas reduction goals cannot be met without greater use of biofuels and bioproducts, and reveals the four largest barriers currently impeding further progress.

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. 

According to the report launched today, around 130 billion liters 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. Global biofuel output must rise to more than 200 billion liters annually by 2025 and more than 1100 billion liters annually by 2050 to be in line with long-term climate change mitigation scenarios developed by the IEA and the International Renewable Energy Agency (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.

The report — which you can download here 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.

• Unfavorable 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 Creating the Biofuture report was commissioned by the Biofuture Platform – a government-led, multi-stakeholder initiative created to support the development of the sustainable, low carbon bioeconomy. It 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.

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).

IEA Designated to Become Biofuture Platform’s Facilitator

The Biofuture Platform also announced today 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.

The Bottom Line: Notes from The Been Here Before Department

Given that the COP24 is meeting in Katowice in Poland, it seems the right time to relate the situation of one of the more interesting characters ever to hail from Katowice, Lady Margaret Noszak of Ciezyn. Doubly so because so many leaders currently struggling with climate change, Brexit, open borders, and international trade flows are directly descended from her family.

Lady Margaret lived at the time of last great climate disaster that beset Europe, the Little Ice Age of the 14th century. A time when a version of a Paris Agreement over the relations of Europe was in constant jeopardy, border disputes raged over Bohemia, Prussia, France, England and elsewhere. Bandits were on the borderlands. Emperor Wenceslaus would have fractious relations with the Imperial Diet over questions of the legitimacy of his election. There was a turbulent shuffle of officials, and an energy shift owing to deforestation. The monarch of France was widely suspected to have gone quite insane. Debate raged across Europe over the revival of trade, but on fair terms, and the securing of borders. 

Enter Lady Margaret, arriving in England as lady-in-waiting to Anne of Bohemia, betrothed to Richard II. It was a controversial tie-up, owing to questions of payments that were supposed to flow between Europe and Britain as a result of the marriage, and the question of whether closer ties with Europe would result in more trade or less sovereignty. Meanwhile, there were Irish border troubles and Richard II’s mishandling of them caused the downfall of his government and the loss of his life.

All of which to say, we’ve been here before, in so many ways. Time to get it right.



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