EIA initiates ‘Biofuture’ Principles for Post-COVID Bioeconomy Recovery and Acceleration

The International Energy Agency (IEA) is a government-led, multi-stakeholder has facilitated initiative ‘The Biofuture Platform’ by and designed to take action on climate change by promoting international coordination on the sustainable low-carbon bioeconomy for a post-Covid recovery. Currently, The Biofuture Platform has twenty member countries for sharing a vision for a low carbon sustainable bioeconomy, and at this time they recognize the urgent need to support the sector in the short term, but also to embed the low carbon bioeconomy in broad economic recovery programs for long-term growth and success.

The IEA renewable energy market has analyzed Renewables 2020, biofuels production dropped by almost 12pc in 2020. The urgent policy action required to support the bioenergy and biofuels sector, which has been hard hit by the coronavirus crisis. Small and medium size enterprises are particularly at risk. The IEA urges countries to include bioenergy in economic recovery packages and adopt the Biofuture Platform principles. Earlier, IEA analysis estimates that for every million dollars of investment in the bioenergy sector up to 30 jobs can be created, in particular in rural areas in emerging economies.

IEA Executive Director Dr Fatih Birol (left) with outgoing Biofuture Platform interim Facilitator Ambassador José Antônio Marcondes de Carvalho, Undersecretary General for the Environment, Energy and Science and Technology, at COP24 on 10 December, 2018

Highlighting the Key of the Biofuture Platform for the Post-COVID Recovery

IEA renewable energy division head, Paolo Frankl said, the Biofuture Platform was launched in Marrakesh at the UN-led 22nd Conference of Parties (COP) climate talks in November 2016. To help expand and modernise the use of bioenergy, the platform brings together a relatively limited but strong group of like-minded countries, which are either already leaders in the new advanced bioeconomy or interested in its development.

Twenty countries are the founding members of the platform, namely Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Morocco, Mozambique, the Netherlands, Paraguay, the Philippines, Sweden, United Kingdom, the United States of America and Uruguay while the programme and priorities of work are discussed and proposed by a group of core countries — currently Brazil, China, India, the Netherlands, the UK and the US.

The members are shared a vision for a low carbon sustainable bioeconomy, and at this time they recognise the urgent need to support the sector in the short term, but also to embed the low carbon bioeconomy in broad economic recovery programs for long-term growth and success.

In August 2020, the Biofuture Platform launched a set of voluntary principles, intended to offer guidance to governments and policymakers around the world on the need to promote the sustainable bioeconomy in both short-term relief packages and broader post-Covid economic recovery programmes. The principles have the support of the Biofuture Platform member countries, and were developed following consultations with policymakers, industry experts and international organisations.

The five principles for post-Covid bioeconomy recovery urge policy makers to keep existing policies in place and not lower policy ambition, to consider short-term Covid-support for biofuel producers and to reassess fossil fuel subsidies. They suggest to strengthen biofuel ambitions, for example by introducing blending mandates for sustainable aviation fuels as part of recovery packages for airlines, and to rewards sustainability by incorporating life cycle greenhouse gas emission reduction requirements and sustainability measures into biofuels policies.

Five Core Biofuture Principles for Post-COVID Bioeconomy Recovery

Ernesto Araújo, Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Brazil, explained “The Biofuture Platform has been critical in filling a gap in the international environmental and energy debate, in which the role and the need for a sustainable bioenergy has been largely ignored. Since the launch of the Platform, member countries have announced and worked on major new policies and programmes for bioenergy, biofuels, and the bioeconomy.”

The crisis globally related to COVID-19 has heavily impacted bioenergy, but the one has also brought to light the need for strong economic recovery programmes across many sectors, and several countries are considering the opportunity to build back better. As a way to facilitate consideration of policies and programs, they put forward these five non-binding core Biofuture Principles for post-COVID bioeconomy recovery and acceleration.

1) Do not backtrack: Ensure continuity and long-term predictability of bioenergy, biofuels, and bio-based material targets and existing policy mechanisms that have proved successful.

2) Consider short-term COVID support for producers: Where appropriate, address short-term challenges for bioenergy and bio-based materials industries in the context of relief packages related to COVID-driven economic losses;

3) Reassess fossil fuel subsidies: Take advantage of a low oil price environment to reassess fossil fuel subsidies for a fairer playing field.

4) Build Back Better with Bio: Where appropriate, integrate the bioeconomy sector as part of broader recovery programmes, e.g. by requiring bioeconomy investments/targets as part of aid and recovery packages for specific sectors such as transport and chemicals.

5) Reward sustainability: Integrate sustainability rewarding mechanisms into policy frameworks, promoting positive externalities in the production and use of bio-based fuels, chemicals and materials.

Driving The EU Biofuels Consumption by The Biofuture Platform’s Role

The EU is a very important market for biofuels. Six EU countries, plus the UK, are founding members of the platform and Portugal is joining. One of the core visions and reasons for being in the group is to promote sustainable practices for the production of biomass and along the entire life cycle. Biofuture Platform supported with other organisations — including the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) and the Global Bioenergy Partnership (GBEP) in May 2019 was that sustainability criteria should apply to all biomass and not just to the portion of it used for transport biofuels or bioenergy.

In coming year, European transport markets could possible transform a majority market share of conventional biofuels to a greater portion of advanced biofuels. Member countries will need to put in a package of policies to deploy advanced biofuel technologies that are ready, help commercialise those technologies that look promising and provide clear sustainability requirements all with long term periods. But many of these technologies remain at the demonstration phase. Domestic policies and investment could help commercialise these technologies and deploy them at a larger scale.

In 2021, the Biofuture Platform is due to release its Policy Blueprint analysis. This assessment of the effectiveness of bioenergy support policies will provide a critical review of policies, providing good practice examples, but also highlighting some weaker parts which identify scope for further domestic policy action. The point is not to say who is good and who is bad, but to improve all together.