The deployment of biomass for production of power, heat, transportation fuels, renewable feedstock and materials has become one of the most complex, promising, politicized and debated options we have at our disposal to combat climate change and to create a sustainable energy system.
State-of-the-art analysis strongly confirms the necessity of large scale biomass deployment to meet the maximum GMT change of 2 – 1,5°C. The Paris Agreement fortunately led to global consensus for deep GHG emission reduction. The IPCC made clear in its 5th assessment report, that all key mitigation options need to deliver in the coming 4 decades on a vast scale, and that 250-300 EJ may need to come from biomass to make that possible. With those targets, the need for negative emissions is deemed necessary on a large scale.
Furthermore, biomass is the only tangible alternative for delivering carbon neutral carbon for liquid transport fuels for aviation, shipping, heavy road transport and shares of demand for passenger vehicles. Overall, sustainable biomass may deliver 30-40% of total global GHG mitigation efforts with the combined displacement of fossil fuels, CO2 removal and storage and increased carbon storage via vegetation, reforestation and restoration of marginal and degraded lands.
Fossil energy imports of the EU amount to some 400 billion Euro/yr, oil & gas import dependency has risen to over 90% and will increase even further in the coming decades. Biomass offers the opportunity to cover a quarter of the EU’s energy use by 2050 within its borders, ensuring that a large part of the energy import bill is transformed to further investment and growth in industry, agriculture and forestry, implying sustainable jobs in particular in rural regions. Similar argumentation holds for many other world regions as well.
A sustainable biobased economy first and foremost depends on availability and supply of sustainable and affordable biomass resources. Today, we clearly understand that it is paramount that unsustainable displacement of food and loss of forest cover can be well avoided by means of higher resource efficiency in agriculture, livestock management and by restoration of degraded lands. This is possible on the scale required and can provide major synergies between sustainable biobased economy and sustainable, resource efficient food production. Achieving this synergy is one of the most important objectives for the coming decade, via large scale demonstrations, new integral policy and sustainability frameworks, that not only cover biomass value chains, but also the larger land and natural resource base and rural economy of the regions where the biomass is sourced.
Modernization and improved efficiency of conventional agriculture is essential in itself. Doing so changes the perspective on bioenergy from hedging problems to achieving synergies with better agriculture. Certification of biomass value chains sets the pace for conventional agriculture in that sense, which is a very positive development. The required land use strategies can also provide an answer to adapt to the impacts of climate change, by means of prevention of soil erosion, improving water retention functions, abating salinity problems, and more resilient agriculture. In total, this provides a ‘’heavy’ agenda; the combined effort of science, energy and chemical industries, civil society, policy and -key for the biobased economy the agriculture and forestry sectors, is needed. Building this sustainable biobased economy takes decades and steady, gradual development of markets, infrastructure and technologies. Such a long term perspective is essential to steadily push down costs and to walk down the learning curves that are very much there to exploit.
We need to deliver. Let’s keep that in mind while we all enjoy an excellent and inspiring event that brings the best and and brightest of the biobased community together.
biomass, biofuels, bioenergy, algae