Incentives for the production of bioenergy must continue as part of post-pandemic recovery
September 09, 2020
By André Julião | Agência FAPESP – The coronavirus pandemic should not be allowed to interrupt the bioenergy policies and programs that have been implemented in recent years. The sector faces difficult months owing to falling demand, and incentives are essential to maintain production of biofuels, which help achieve greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. This was one of the conclusions of the webinar “The Biofuture Principles for Post-COVID Recovery: an Agenda for Brazil”, streamed live on August 13 and now available on YouTube.
The online seminar was part of the 2020 Brazilian Bioenergy Science and Technology Conference (BBEST).
“The idea of this first webinar is to kick off the discussions we intend to have during the BBEST conference, which we hold every year. For today’s discussion, we’ve chosen the way to post-COVID economic recovery, and how to do this sustainably, with bioenergy. The economy has slowed but climate change has not. We need to ramp up our efforts and increase the production of biofuels to meet our greenhouse gas emission targets. We don’t want to reset our economies with higher emissions,” said Gláucia Mendes Souza, a professor in the University of São Paulo’s Institute of Chemistry, in her opening remarks to welcome participants. Souza is the coordinator of the FAPESP Bioenergy Research Program (BIOEN).
Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, a professor in the University of Campinas’s Gleb Wataghin Institute of Physics (IFGW-UNICAMP) and FAPESP’s Scientific Director from April 2005 to April 2020, recalled that in 2019 more than 40% of Brazil’s primary energy supply came from renewable sources, with bioenergy from sugarcane accounting for the largest share (16% of renewables).
“Reaching a point where 40% of the primary energy supply comes from renewables is a great achievement by Brazil. It’s unique, very special, and beneficial for the country itself and the world,” Brito Cruz said. “In addition to generating energy with lower greenhouse gas emissions, Brazil’s bioenergy program creates and maintains 594,000 jobs. Renewable energy as a whole maintains 893,000 jobs, which is a lot, especially in today’s world. So it’s an initiative that has created sustainability for Brazil, achieved self-sufficiency in energy and provided jobs for Brazilians.”
During the webinar, the participants commented on the August 12 official announcement of Five Principles for Post-COVID Bioeconomy Recovery and Acceleration made by the Biofuture Platform, a 20-country initiative launched in 2016 to promote international coordination on the sustainable low-carbon bioeconomy. The initiative was proposed by Brazil.
The Principles are: Do not backtrack (ensure continuity of existing bioenergy projects and policy mechanisms); Consider short-term COVID support for producers; Reassess fossil fuel subsidies; Build back better with bio (integrate the bioeconomy sector into broader recovery programs); and Reward sustainability (integrate sustainability-rewarding mechanisms into policy frameworks to incentivize production and use of bio-based fuels, chemicals, and materials).
Renato Godinho, Chair of the Biofuture Platform, said all these measures will be particularly important in light of the expectation that the production of biofuels will fall 13% this year owing to reduced transportation activity during the pandemic, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Godinho is a career diplomat in Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“Even if you have a policy that requires biofuels to represent a significant share of all fuels, consumption of biofuels falls if total consumption falls,” Godinho said. “There is a second impact, which is that low diesel and gasoline prices influence the competitiveness of renewables and biofuels. Biofuel producers are now selling less at a lower price. This is what is happening generally and is very much a concern.”
Plinio Nastari of Datagro, a leading ethanol consulting firm, said Renovabio, Brazil’s national biofuel program launched this year, is an example of the incentives recommended by the Principles that Brazil is already implementing. So far 229 biofuel producers and one biomethane producer have been certified as using feedstocks that do not come from deforested land and complying with the Brazilian Forest Code (considered exceptionally stringent in the global context), among other criteria.
For more information about BBEST and the webinar, visit bbest-biofuture.org/webinar/.
The webinar is also available on YouTube: youtu.be/tr5O38Jzlcc.
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