World Leaders Must Get on Biofuels Page

Representatives from 130 countries, including some 60 world leaders, were at the United Nations headquarters in New York City on Earth Day, April 22, to sign the climate accord. This column is published in the June issue of Ethanol Producer Magazine.
By Bliss Baker | May 14, 2016

Representatives from 130 countries, including some 60 world leaders, were at the United Nations headquarters in New York City on Earth Day, April 22, to formally sign the climate accord, the next step toward implementing the agreement reached at COP 21 in Paris. The governments of these countries have one year to ratify the agreement.

Assuming that the accord successfully is ratified by national governments, the Paris agreement will take effect 30 days after the date on which at least 55 parties to the convention, accounting for at least an estimated 55 percent of total global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, have finalized their adoption of the accord.

In an encouraging move, on March 31, U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping pre-empted the ceremony with a historical agreement to reduce GHG emissions. Obama pledged that the U.S. would cut its emissions by 26 percent by 2025 compared with 2005 levels. In turn, Xi Jinping promised that China’s emissions would peak by 2030 and fall after that, the first time China has agreed to any emission reduction targets.

These targets represent steps in the right direction and will serve as a signal to the rest of the world that the largest global emitters are getting serious about fighting climate change.

 But it is one thing to set targets, and another to implement the steps necessary to achieve them.
It is estimated that the transportation sector produces 25 to 30 percent of the world’s GHG emissions, making it a key focus for policies aimed at reducing global emissions.

If serious action is to be taken to reduce these emissions, world leaders will need to recognize that low-carbon transport fuel alternatives to crude oil, such as ethanol, are the only cost-effective and commercially available options for policy makers to consider.

Studies have shown that compared with fossil fuels, the reduction in harmful GHGs resulting from the use of biofuels, including ethanol, range from 40 to 90 percent. In 2014, the total global GHG emission reductions forecast from the use of biofuels is 168.9 million metric tons. While these reductions are substantial, there still is room for significant growth in the sector.

According to projections prepared by (S&T)2 Consultants Inc., even with conservative annual production growth rates of 2.8  percent, the potential GHG emission reductions from biofuel use is 263.9 million metric tons per year by 2030. This represents a 56 percent increase in the GHG emission reductions compared with 2014.

What is needed to achieve these potential savings globally is the political will by signatories of the Paris Agreement to introduce biofuel-friendly policies that maximize the advantages of biofuel technologies that are effective, affordable and immediately available.

Already, 37 countries have signaled their intentions to take advantage of these benefits by including biofuels as part of their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions plans.

As governments move to ratify the Paris agreement and develop clear policy steps toward their emission reduction targets, it is crucial that these plans include provisions to increase global production, innovation and consumption of biofuels.

In recognition of this reality, the GRFA recently sent letters to key policymakers around the world highlighting the effectiveness of biofuels in reducing GHG emissions and encouraging the support of biofuels-friendly policies.  

The GRFA represents biofuels producers in 45 countries. This global perspective gives us a thorough understanding of the biofuels industry and its issues from an international and regional perspective. As countries take policy steps to reduce GHG emissions in their transport sectors, the GRFA will continue to provide technical support for the adoption and enhancement of biofuel-supportive policies to maximize the advantages of biofuel technologies.

There has never been a better time to bring biofuels to the top of the sustainability, economic and climate change agenda.

Author: Bliss Baker 
President, Global Renewable Fuels Alliance