Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is bioenergy?
2. Is bioenergy a sustainable source?

3. How can bioenergy contribute to mitigate climate change?

4. Are bioenergy and food security compatible?

5. Why is bioenergy considered a viable alternative?

6. What is GBEP’s mandate?

7. Who are GBEP Partners?

8. What is GBEP’s programme of work?

9. Why partner with GBEP?


1. What is bioenergy?

Bioenergy is a clean source of energy produced from biomass – wood, energy crops and organic wastes and residues. Biomass can directly or indirectly be converted into biofuels which can be of solid, liquid or gaseous forms. Currently, over 85% of biomass energy is consumed as solid fuels for cooking, heating and lighting, often with low efficiency. Traditional bioenergy (fuel wood, charcoal which can only deliver heat) dominate bioenergy consumption in developing countries. On the other hand, modern bioenergy relies on efficient conversion technologies increased over recent years, especially in OECD Countries.

2. Is bioenergy a sustainable source?

Bioenergy is sustainable only if its entire production chain – feedstock production, refining and conversion - and end use practices are sustainable. Sustainability includes environmental, social and economic considerations. The main environmental issues to be considered are responsible use of agro-chemicals and fertilisers, prevention of soil erosion, protection of biodiversity, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, improvement of air quality and sustainable management of surface and ground water. Social sustainability can be achieved by addressing issues such as indoor air pollution, rural jobs and development, labour conditions, gender and access to land and water. Economic sustainability means that the policy environments and the government incentives to encourage bioenergy should target technologies that are economically and commercially viable in the medium and long term.


3. How can bioenergy contribute to mitigate climate change?

Bioenergy offers significant potentials for emission reductions in electricity, heat and transportation. Potentials can vary significantly between different feedstock, bioenergy technologies and regions. Emission reductions must be assessed considering the full life-cycle: this includes production (choice of feedstock, agricultural practices, land use changes etc.) refining and conversion processes and end-use practices.



4. Are bioenergy and food security compatible?

Bioenergy offers new growth opportunities in developing countries, but it is important to guarantee the livelihoods and well-being of the most vulnerable. Growth in bioenergy may have repercussions on food security through two predominant channels: a) price effects in international markets and b) local factors related to specific production methods of bioenergy and the local context. Because energy markets are significantly larger than agricultural markets in value terms, the energy prices drive agricultural prices in commodities such as sugar, maize and rapeseed which can function as energy crops. Higher prices can create new market opportunities for poor small scale producers, depending upon the type of bioenergy and the production system. Yet they can adversely affect buyers of the commodities, in particular the urban poor and the land-less poor.


5. Why is bioenergy considered a viable alternative?

Bioenergy can provide dramatic environmental gains if carefully managed. Bioenergy is considered a viable alternative as it contributes to address the following key factors:
a) rising energy demand and prices;
b) dependency on oil and gas exporting countries;
c) reduction of GHG emission to combat climate change.
From an economic point of view first generation biofuels are already a competitive option as compared to fossil fuels. Technology improvements in the near future will most probably make second generation biofuels even more competitive.


6. What is GBEP’s mandate?

In the Gleneagles Plan of Action (July 2005), the Heads of State and Government of the G8 +5 (China, Brazil, India, Mexico and South Africa), agreed to “launch a Global Bioenergy Partnership (GBEP) to support wider, cost effective biomass and biofuels deployment, particularly in developing countries where biomass use is prevalent”. GBEP was launched during the 14th Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development in May 2006 and invited by the 2007 G8 Summit in Heiligendamm to “continue its work on biofuels best practices and take forward the successful and sustainable development of bioenergy”. The 2008 G8 Summit in Hokkaido Toyako renewed GBEP mandate inviting it to "work with other relevant stakeholders to develop science-based benchmarks and indicators for biofuel production and use". The Partnership focuses its activities in three strategic areas: sustainable development, climate change, food and energy security.


7. Who are GBEP Partners?

Current Partners are: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Fiji Islands, France, Germany, Ghana, Italy, Japan, Mauritania, Mexico, Netherlands, Paraguay, Russian Federation, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, United Kingdom, United States of America, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), European Commission, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), International Energy Agency (IEA), International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN/DESA), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), United Nations Foundation (UNF), World Council for Renewable Energy (WCRE) and European Biomass Industry Association (EUBIA). Angola, Australia, Austria, Cambodia, Chile, Denmrk, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Gambia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Laos, Madagascar, Malaysia, Morocco, Mozambique, Norway, Peru, Rwanda, South Africa, Thailand, Tunisia, Viet Nam, Zimbabwe, African Development Bank (AfDB), Asian Development Bank (ADB), Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), European Environment Agency (EEA), Global Environment Facility (GEF), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Organization of American States (OAS), Union Economique et Monétaire Ouest Africaine (UEMOA), the World Bank and the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD) are participating as observers.


8. What is GBEP’s programme of work?

In line with GBEP’s Terms of Reference and the state of the international debate on bioenergy, GBEP Partners selected the following priority areas for the immediate programme of work:
• Facilitate the sustainable development of bioenergy and collaboration on bioenergy field projects;
• Formulate a harmonized methodological framework on GHG emission reduction measurement from the use of biofuels for transportation and from the use of solid biomass;
• Raise awareness and facilitate information exchange on bioenergy;


9. Why partner with GBEP?

GBEP is a voluntary based global initiative devoted to bioenergy and supported by a strong political G8 mandate. Bringing together public, private and civil society representatives, it provides a forum to develop effective policy frameworks to suggest rules and tools to promote sustainable biomass and bioenergy development; to facilitate investments in bioenergy; to promote project development and implementation; to foster R&D and commercial bioenergy activities.
GBEP welcomes contributions to its Programme of Work. Countries, private sector associations, research institutes, development banks and other relevant international, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations may apply for Partnership or Observer status in GBEP by submitting a request Partnership is subject to a consensus of the GBEP Steering Committee, in which all Partners participate, and to signature of the GBEP Terms of Reference.

 
home