Bioenergy as a pathway to accomplishing climate goals

 

Fuel wood seller in Malawi. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre

Fuel wood seller in Malawi. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goal number 7 on energy requires ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030.  According to the World Energy Outlook Report (2016), in more than four-fifths of sub-Saharan African countries, more than half of the population relies on solid biomass for cooking (usually firewood or charcoal), and in half of these countries, the share is above 90%. The traditional use of woody biomass for household energy supply has been a strong driver of deforestation, land degradation and climate change in many developing countries.

Many countries today are opting out of woody biomass fuels in the attempt to promote so-called ‘modern’ energy systems, even if they are fossil fuel derived. This frequently results in a lack of necessary governance and regulation of the existing charcoal market, which is left to informal market actors, with the consequence of inefficient value chains, foregone tax revenues, corruption and high consumer prices.

At the just concluded UN climate talks held in Marrakech, Morocco, the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and the International Network Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) hosted a side event on bioenergy. Experts made a case for for the use of sustainably produced energy from woody biomass in order to meet Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in developing countries.

Rachel Kyte, CEO, SE4All, speaking at the COP22 side event on bioenergy. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Susan Onyango

Rachel Kyte, CEO, SE4All, speaking at the COP22 side event on bioenergy. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Susan Onyango

In her opening remarks, Dr Rachel Kyte, CEO of Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) outlined how woody-based bioenergy in sub-Saharan Africa can help provide universal access to energy by 2030.

“The SDGs cannot move ahead unless we involve everyone. We want to make biomass more clean and affordable for the 2.9 b worldwide who don’t have access to energy. We will have to bring new evidence and data to bring the models to the market and bring clean energy to those who do not have it by bringing bioenergy into the agenda,” said Kyte.

Biofuels from woody plants can be commodities that meet the requirements of modern energy systems and lead to improved and diversified livelihoods of rural communities in sustainable farming landscapes and healthy forests. At this same time, this will provide urban consumers with a low-cost, high-quality product that can be used for cooking with minimal health risks.

“When we look at sustainable energy, renewable energy and modern forms of energy, it is only bioenergy that is renewable. Wind is not renewable,” said. “Charcoal and gas is the preserve of the wealthier urban people while firewood is the preserve of the rural poor.”

He outlined critical success factors for sustainable bioenergy:

  • SDGs provide direction for the global development agenda until 2030
  • Sustainable energy, including bioenergy, can contribute to the achievement of SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy) and several other SDGs
  • Governments need to ensure that sustainable energy policies are aligned with the SDGs for bioenergy to unfold its full potential
  • Inclusive and effective participatory approaches are key to achieving the goal
  • There are promising pathways and technologies to develop bioenergy, which depend on national and local contexts that need to be taken into account to identify optimal bioenergy solutions

Given the trends in population growth, urbanization, relatively high costs for other energy sources, and cultural preferences, finding solutions that include energy derived from woody biomass will be necessary if the SDG is to be reached without resulting in widespread landscape degradation

“Bamboos are the fastest growing plants in the world, and they pack considerable amounts of biomass,” said Dr Hans Freidrich, director general at INBAR.  “Bamboos grow throughout the majority of sub-Saharan Africa yet, most countries do not use it for fuel. Bamboo charcoal burns clean, without sparks has virtually no smell.  These qualities should make bamboo charcoal and briquettes a preferred choice for household energy in rural areas of Africa.”

Examples from Ethiopia, Ghana and Indonesia

Representatives from Ethiopia, Ghana and Indonesia, also INBAR member states, elaborated on how their national development strategies are incorporating different sources of renewable energy, including bamboo charcoal, to implement their NDCs.

From left: Kare Cha-cha (Ethiopia), Pak Kuntoro Mangkusubroto (Indonesia) and Henry Neufelde (ICRAF). Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Susan Onyango

From left: Kare Cha-cha (Ethiopia), Pak Kuntoro Mangkusubroto (Indonesia) and Henry Neufelde (ICRAF). Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Susan Onyango

Kare Chawicha, Ethiopia’s State Minister of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change outlined three strategies the country has adopted. These include the use of fast growing trees in watershed management, rural energy and land restoration: use of species such as bamboo to restore degraded land; and partnerships for large scale land restoration interventions. Ethiopia will establish a centre of bamboo, in collaboration with INBAR, to serve the nation and the region in terms of knowledge transfer and exchange.

Emmanual Techie-Obeng, National Focal Point for Climate Change in Environmental Protection Agency, Ghana. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/ICRAF

Emmanual Techie-Obeng, National Focal Point for Climate Change in Environmental Protection Agency, Ghana. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/ICRAF

“We are using our adaptation fund to restore our river basins using bamboo using enrichment planting by incorporating commercial species where the basin is degraded and manage it through thinning,” said Emmanual Techie-Obeng, National Focal Point for Climate Change in Environmental Protection Agency, Ghana. “We will do this around the Volta. This will be a community resource – they will be allowed to use it sustainably mainly for the use of making furniture and fuel wood in a minimal manner.”

“15 years ago, we were focusing on oil and gas in Indonesia. We were a net exporter and part of the Opec. We had to change our policy as oil was depleted,” said Pak Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, Chair of the Steering Committee, Tropical Landscapes Finance Facility. “We aim to reach a target of 22% of energy supply from biomass and bamboo offers a solution.”

Call for the use of woody biomass

Biofuels from woody plants can meet the requirements of modern energy systems and lead to improved and diversified livelihoods of rural communities in sustainable farming landscapes and healthy forests. At the same time, biofuels can provide urban consumers with a low-cost, high-quality product that can be used for cooking with minimal health risks. “Achieving this requires a transformation of traditional land management with political will and integrated, evidence-based decision-making processes of public-private-civic partnerships as their driving forces,” concluded Dr Henry Neufeldt, head of climate change at ICRAF.

Hans Friederich, Director Generall, INBAR, and Tony Simons, Director General, ICRAF, sign an MoU. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Susan Onyango

Hans Friederich, Director Generall, INBAR, and Tony Simons, Director General, ICRAF, sign an MoU. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Susan Onyango

At the same event, ICRAF and INBAR signed a Memorandum of Understanding to implement joint activities on bamboo and rattan. The MoU will lead to improved bamboo planting material delivery systems in INBAR member countries, improved smallholder livelihood opportunities involving bamboo and rattan, improved access to sustainable bioenergy supplies for bioenergy dependent communities in INBAR member states and increased restoration of degraded lands.

The event, Woody Biomass Energy to Meet NDCs and SDGs in Developing Countries, was organized by the World Agroforestry Centre and the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan, at the UN climate talks on 15 November, 2016.

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Susan Onyango

Susan Onyango

Susan Onyango is the communications specialist for climate change for the World Agroforestry Centre and is based at the headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. With over 12 year’s experience in communication, she promotes the World Agroforestry Centre’s work on climate change, writes blogs and provides communication advice and support to scientists. Susan holds a MA communication studies and a BA in English.

Twitter: @susanonyango

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