22 März 2010

1st European Convention on Sustainable Bioenergy: No competition between biofuel and food production

Exploration of land potential and double cropping for production of bioenergy

European bioenergy experts have hit out at mounting skepticism about biofuels saying their production need not compromise the production of food, and claiming that 20 per cent of Europe’s energy demands could be met by sustainable biofuels by 2050.

At the 1st Global Sustainable Bioenergy conference in Delft, the Netherlands last week leaders from energy-related sectors around the world claimed bioenergy is a viable alternative to nuclear power and fossil fuels, and that their successful development would also boost the global job market.

The conference also heard warnings that the opportunity would be lost unless all those involved in every stage of bioenergy production, from farmers to industries and governments through to stakeholders and national academies get involved.

The conclusions of the Delft conference were drafted into a European Bioenergy Resolution:

“Europe has the ability to provide substantial shares of its future energy demands from sustainable bioenergy. It has a unique set of opportunities including demographic trends (declining population and stable consumption), geographic conditions and institutional and political capacity to aggressively develop bioenergy solutions,” says the resolution.

The resolution notes that Europe’s energy portfolio is neither secure nor sustainable and bioenergy produced in sustainable ways is a necessary element in moves to deal with climate change, energy security and rural development. Bioenergy can be used in transport, electricity generation, heating and carbon management.

Projections have highlighted 40 million hectares of agricultural land that is abandoned or under-utilised in Europe, and that is potentially available for bioenergy.

Such a dramatic transformation in land use will deliver large-scale employment and investment benefits in often rural and deprived areas of Europe. It will deliver significant benefits to biodiversity, water cycle, soil stability and quality, as well as enhancing carbon stocks and food crop production.

To achieve these benefits, agriculture and bioenergy policy must be integrated for the sustainable and synergistic production of food, fibre, chemicals and bioenergy.

Biomass for bioenergy can be produced at the same time as food through double cropping.

“There are powerful and urgent reasons why such an approach needs to be taken and grounds for optimism that multiple benefits will accrue if done well,” says the resolution.

This is the challenge to Europe’s policy makers and politicians, who need to set the robust sustainability frameworks needed to deliver sustainable bioenergy systems, but also the incentives and long term signals necessary to make it happen. “Transparent and credible analyses are needed to foster understanding and consensus as well as to elaborate the multiple and sustainable paths to a bioenergy-intensive future,” the resolution concludes.

Further information
European Convention on Global Sustainable Bioenergy
European GSB Bioenergy Resolution (pdf-file)

Source: Science Business Publishing Ltd., 2010-03-11.

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