A tipping point for a bioenergetic future: COP22
Today marks the beginning of what will be a truly historic meeting.
From Nov. 7 to 18, the United Nations Climate Change Conference of 2016 will commence meeting in Marrakesh. There, thousands of delegates will come together to implement the Paris Climate Change Agreement, adopted at the Conference of Parties Session 21 (COP21) in December 2015. While certainly a continuation of climate change discussions, even more reveling is the fact the Paris Agreement is being enacted at full speed, and in less than one year after being introduced.
This will be fundamental for the future of renewable energy. With countries like the U.S. setting an economy-wide target of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28% by 2025, the meeting sets forth an invigorating journey, and let us not deny that advanced biofuels will play a vital role for developed and developing countries alike.
Cellulosic ethanol alone indicates strong potential. Earlier this year, the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) released a report pointing out that, “2015 markets in developing and developed countries, particularly the United States, the European Union, China, Canada and Brazil have proven to be dynamic and at the forefront of the deployment of advanced biofuels worldwide. These countries and regions are also responsible for the majority of world trade in biofuels.”
UNCTAD goes on to make insightful suggestions, including promoting joint ventures between domestic organizations and foreign companies and considering broader aspects of the bioeconomy sectors.
But I’ll pause here to point out two thoughts that immediately come to mind: 1.) With only five regions shown for the cellulosic market alone, the growth potential for the bioenergy market is ever so strong and 2.) With so many continuous, ground-breaking industrial and technological advancements being made every day — from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) recent award of $15M in funding towards building algae biofuel technology to JetBlue’s declared commitment to purchase more than 330M gallons of renewable jet fuel for the next 10 years – we must keep the momentum going.
Many important stakeholders are meeting at the upcoming COP22 and we wouldn’t have gotten to this remarkable standpoint if not for the efforts by all individuals involved. Yet, I would also like to take a broader stance and urge all participating parties to keep the following thoughts in mind as the meeting in Marrakesh commences:
- Bioenergy continues to provide one of the most sustainable paths forward.
While many resources — wind, solar, hydro and more — are pivotal players towards a greener future, let us not forget bioenergy is the single largest renewable energy source as of today, providing 10% of the world’s primary energy supply. There are so many fantastic activities in the bioenergy realm, and as the DOE points out: these markets would provide “reduced GHG emissions from biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower; energy security with increased domestic production of fuels and renewable chemicals; and economic benefits through the development of biorefinery conversion facilities and markets for rural crops, residues, and wastes.”
CEOs of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development have campaigned for the market share of biofuels to be 10% or higher, while biofuel and biotech organizations that represent 90% of the world’s biofuels production have called for sustainable biofuels to replace at least 15% of nations’ transportation fuels by 2030. More recently, leaders representing 20 of the world’s major economies at the G20 Energy Ministerial Meeting reaffirmed the importance of promoting technology development and deployment of cellulosic and other advanced biofuels.
Why is all this happening? There is no doubt about it. We are a strong, globalized group of entities dedicated to a renewable energetic world and our existing markets thus far prove it. Let’s continue along this path.
- Strengthen the resources that are core to our biological efforts.
Along with the impact of the bioenergy market, we must remember every participant plays a crucial role in fortifying ourselves towards our green goals. Key companies are making their marks across Silicon Valley, Wall Street and other corridors of business exchanges… but I also believe the true heroes are the individuals at every milestone of a project who are devoting their daily work to a bio-renewable future.
The bioenergy market would not be where it is without every individual in the realm of research and development, supply operations, academic institutions, manufacturing and many other touch points across bioenergy value chains. Whether boosting funding for R&D projects or partnering with various private sector opportunities, one thing is clear: We must strengthen, support and motivate our resources in order to enhance our bioenergy development roadmap.
The Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI) is an incredible example of supporting technical areas for feedstock development, biofuels and biobased products development, and biofuels development analysis. Opportunities like Sustainable Bioenergy High-Impact Opportunity (HIO) and Biotechnology Innovation Organization’s One-on-One Partnering are also powerful places to start, but let’s go further in magnifying the endeavors put forth by governments, private sectors and the civil society.
- Stay focused on the end goal: If we are to protect the climate system for current and future generations, bioenergy will be of paramount importance.
This brings me to my final thought. The most fundamental and essential aspect in setting forth our renewable energy goals has been the global, unified effort in which all parties push to limit the rise of global temperature under 2 degrees Celsius. It is so telling that each nation has agreed to put forth effort in reducing greenhouse gas emissions through an agreement that, as of today, 177 countries have signed. And each and every one of them have or will put forth their Nationally Determined Contribution (INDCs) for a sustainable future. The question I have now is, have all the nations included bioenergy as a fundamental part of their plans? Because this is the time to solidify the earth’s biological clock.
Nations across the world have already enacted on various mandates to push towards a cleaner future: The Renewable Energy Directive of the EU, the E27 mandate of Brazil, the 10% biofuels mandate by 2020 of China… The list goes on. And as evidenced by the U.S. alone, the Clean Air Act, the Energy Policy Act and the Energy Independence and Security Act are all but starting points. We can do more.
COP22 marks a decisive moment for all of us. Disagreements may prevail and various sides may push for distinct objectives, but let us not be deterred from what has already been accomplished. Indispensable discussions have taken place up until now, from assessing the state of the Small Island Developing States exposed to environmental changes to agreements on GHG reductions being made. Well-known individuals like Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert Redford and Akon are slated to participate at COP22 — just a small fraction of the increasing, global desire for a cleaner world. And already, Environment Minister Hakim El Haite has announced the future creation of a regional climate fund, in line with COP22’s focus.
Yes! Let us not stop here. We are but at the tipping point of a brighter future.
Check back next week for the second and final part of this series, when Amanda Young will take a look at the financial side of renewable energy — what opportunities renewable sources represent, and what COP22 stakeholders should keep in mind going forward in advancing global efforts.
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