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Delegates from around the world gathered at the resort town of Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt for the 2-week climate change conference COP27. The 27th Conference of the Parties is meeting at a critical time at the backdrop of increased calls from the scientific community that the window of opportunity to meet the 1.5-degree global warming target is fast closing. According to IPCC, the global emissions must reduce by 45% by 2030, and the world must achieve net zero by mid-century.
There are numerous disagreements among the negotiators to achieve consensus outcome from COP27. Some of the issues are longstanding – financing for adaptation as well as loss and damage due to climate change induced weather issues, transparency in monitoring and reporting emissions as well as the need for increased ambition from national governments. Recent analysis shows that if we assume all the pledges from national governments are achieved, the global warming would be more than 2.5-degree C – certainly not enough.
There is also good news. Recent analysis by IEA shows that full achievement of national climate pledges as well as sector specific and industry targets, the global warming can be limited to 1.7-degree C. Secondly, everyone understands fossil fuels are the predominant cause of increased global emissions. At COP26, for the first time ever, coal was mentioned in the outcome text where countries agreed to phase down coal production gradually. At the same time, a new alliance Beyond Oil and Gas (BOGA) was formed, led by Denmark which shows the renewed focus on tackling the main issue – reducing fossil fuel use. More countries are signing up to these new initiatives. There are even calls from some countries to include phase down of all fossil fuels in the negotiating text. Some countries have submitted increased ambition in their NDC (Nationally Determined Contributions), and others have published clear and long-term scenarios for emission reductions.
So, what does it mean for bioenergy? The renewed focus to phase down/phase out fossil fuels opens a worldwide opportunity for bioenergy to provide dispatchable and renewable solution in all end use sectors. Fossil fuels account for about 80% of all energy supply and even with increased share of solar PV and wind, we would desperately need bioenergy solutions to meet the gap left by reducing fossil fuel supply. We already see countries identifying densified biomass as a critical component for co – firing along with coal to reduce fossil fuel use. Industries such as beverage, food, pharma etc. are investing towards biomass heat to replace their use of natural gas and meet their global net zero goals. Biogas has been featured at the COP because of its opportunity to utilize waste, capture carbon dioxide and provide for clean heat, electricity and transport.
What are the challenges for the sector? A critical challenge we realized at the COP is lack of information about bioenergy solutions. Apart from national delegates who have significant bioenergy development in their country, the rest of the delegates were unaware about the already existing solutions provided by bioenergy. WBA co organized side events, managed an exhibit stand and presented the case to the media at COP27 about bioenergy. It was important to highlight good commercial case studies of sustainable bioenergy solutions. These case studies should not just show the opportunity for reducing fossil fuel use, but critically highlight the reduction in emissions, creation of jobs, developing infrastructure, protecting biodiversity and utilizing local resources.
Even though the pace of progress in the negotiations is slow, it is going in the right direction, and it is critical for the bioenergy lobby and advocacy groups to capture the opportunity of the transformation and drive the discussion and investments towards bioenergy solutions. The discussions should not just relate to the climate goals and Paris Agreement, but most importantly, towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals.