Brazilian researchers to assess bioenergy for UNESCO | AGÊNCIA FAPESP

Report on sustainability should support governments and United Nations-affiliated institutions to make decisions on bioenergy

Brazilian researchers to assess bioenergy for UNESCO

April 03, 2013

By Elton Alisson

Agência FAPESP – The Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE), which is part of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), invited researchers from FAPESP’s Research Programs on Bioenergy (BIOEN), Biodiversity (BIOTA) and Climate Change to conduct a Rapid Assessment Process on biofuels and sustainability.

The evaluation is the result of a “Summary of Policies” containing a series of recommendations from academia, industry and governmental and nongovernmental organizations to support decisions related to biofuels and sustainability by companies, government and international institutions affiliated with the United Nations. 

“The document should have a major impact and be utilized by governments in diverse countries that are interested in producing and utilizing biofuels to supply their vehicle fleets,” said Professor Glaucia Mendes Souza, of Universidade de São Paulo’s Chemistry Institute (IQ-USP) and a member of BIOEN’s coordination team, in an interview with Agência FAPESP.

According to Souza, who is the first woman to direct a Rapid Assessment Process in SCOPE’s history, this will be the second assessment on biofuels and sustainability. Other reports have been released on themes such as global environmental change, food security and biodiversity. The first evaluation, led by researchers at Cornell University, was published in June 2009, based on data gathered during 2007.

“In this new assessment, we intend to do a state-of-the-art update on biofuels because it has been six years since the first report was published, and many things have changed,” said Souza.

The first report was prepared in collaboration with Luiz Antonio Martinelli and Reynaldo Victoria – both of the USP Center for Nuclear Energy in Agriculture (Cena).

Martinelli was a member of the coordination team for the BIOTA-FAPESP program from 2002 to 2008 and has had several projects funded by FAPESP. Victoria is a member of FAPESP’s Research Program on Global Climate Change. “In a few years, as a result of the quality of science that we have been demonstrating, we have gone from spectators to leaders in the global debate on the sustainability of biofuels,” said Souza. 

Assessment Process

To initiate the evaluation process, researchers from FAPESP’s three research programs and SCOPE held a joint workshop on February 26 at FAPESP’s headquarters to describe and identify problems and challenges and to share perspectives on the sustainability of biofuels.

In addition to participating researchers from BIOEN, BIOTA and Climate Change, the programs involved in the production of the report, the event was attended by specialists in different aspects of biofuel and bioenergy production from several countries.

Among these were José Goldemberg, professor at USP’s Electrotechnical  and Energy Institute; Lee Lynd, a professor at Dartmouth College; Chris Sommerville, from the University of California at Berkeley; and Helena Chum, from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the United States.

Also participating in the event were Jeremy Woods, of Imperial College in the U.K.; Jack Saddler, of the University of British Columbia; Andre Faaij, of Utrecht University; Patricia Osseweijer, of Delft University in the Netherlands; and Jon Samseth, of Hogskolen I Oslo Og Akershus in Norway.

Other participants included Brian Huntley, of Stellenbosch University in South Africa, and Stephen Karekezi, of the African Energy Policy Research Network in Kenya, countries that represent a new frontier for the expansion of biofuels worldwide.

“This group of specialists from different regions of the world, who represent research institutions with large bioenergy projects, will help guide the preparation of recommendations that will be part of the document and to disseminate them,” affirmed Souza.

“In order for recommendations to really have the desired effect, one must talk about them for years so that they are disseminated and implemented,” she added.

Final Volume

Researchers participating in the event as members of the initiative’s scientific committee discussed the launch of a series of meetings on policies for the sustainable expansion of biofuel production worldwide and the example that Brazil has provided in this area, among other issues.

The ideas developed during the meetings, along with information, materials and evaluations obtained by the scientific committee from researchers and organizations in different countries, will form the basis of the preparatory chapters that will be produced over the coming months to develop the recommendations.  

In the first week of December 2013, the project’s scientific committee will meet at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris, France, to write chapters that will cover the most complex and far-reaching economic and social aspects of biofuel production. 

“We will spend a week poring over the most complex issues involving biofuel production to develop proposals for the implementation of practices and objectives that are really useful for anyone who makes public policy decisions,” commented Souza. 

The general chapters written by researchers will be revised, adapted and edited before being published in a final volume with a synopsis of recommendations, slated for release in 2014. 

 

 

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