Deputy-Secretary General of ASEAN for ASEAN Economic Community, Dr. Hong Hin Lim,
Senior Officials of the Ministries of Agriculture and Ministries of Energy from the ASEAN Plus Three Countries,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honor for me to welcome you to this inception meeting of FAO technical cooperation project TCP/RAS/3402 on Bioenergy and Food Security in ASEAN. Bioenergy, with its strong links to the agricultural and forestry sectors, food production systems and rural livelihoods, has long been an area of great interest to FAO. It is with some pride and great interest that I am here to kick start what I hope will be a valuable mechanism to strengthen regional cooperation on this important topic.
Before I start I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank the ASEAN Secretariat’s Agriculture Industries and Natural Resources Division and the ASEAN Centre for Energy for their strong partnership in organizing the meeting today. This initiative has been a collaborative effort and I look forward to further strong partnership in the future.
FAO believes that bioenergy can have both positive and negative impacts on food security. Sustainable, modern bioenergy in its many forms can contribute to agricultural and rural development, create new opportunities for income generation and investment and improve energy security and access. However, if not properly planned bioenergy developments could also imply environmental and socio-economic risks such as potential land-use changes, decreases in soil quality and water availability and quality and potential displacement of local communities, with negative repercussions for livelihoods and food security. Therefore, assessing and managing these risks and opportunities is essential in order to ensure sustainable bioenergy development that fosters agricultural development and food security, while also contributing to climate change mitigation.
FAO has been working closely with governments around the world to help assess some of these trade-offs associated with different types of bioenergy policy and development. The FAO Bioenergy and Food Security Approach, which was introduced yesterday and will be discussed in more detail today, aims to provide policy-makers with the tools to make informed decisions regarding whether bioenergy is a viable, sustainable alternative energy option without compromising the importance of food security and, if so, identify policies that will maximize benefits and minimize risks.
ASEAN Plus Three Member States, like FAO, recognize the opportunities as well as the potential risks posed by bioenergy development. This fact is most strongly reflected in the ASEAN Heads of State and Government Cha-am/Hua Hin Statement on ASEAN plus Three Cooperation on Food Security and Bioenergy Development. This statement committed Member States to, amongst other things, “develop a comprehensive strategy on sustainable and integrated food and biofuels production and consumption”, “promote bioenergy trade and technology innovation to ensure the long-term viability of bioenergy including exploring the possibility of formulating regional policies on bioenergy trade” and “enhance partnership with regional and international organizations to promote collaborative research and development and technology transfer in food security and bioenergy”. ASEAN Plus Three Member States have taken the first steps toward meeting these commitments with the drafting of the comprehensive strategy document for 2010 to 2013 – but much still remains to be done.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This Bioenergy and Food Security in ASEAN project aims to support ASEAN Plus Three Member States in implementing the comprehensive strategy and working towards the ASEAN community’s vision for strengthened regional cooperation on this topic. Through a process of dialogue lead by this group, there will also be opportunities for ASEAN Plus Three Member States to share perspectives and experiences with sustainable bioenergy policies, technologies and systems. Indeed, some countries in the region are already world leaders when it comes to bioenergy policy and technology development and there is a great deal that can be garnered from their experiences.
The project to be presented today is a product of ongoing dialogue between FAO, the ASEAN Secretariat and ASEAN Plus Three member states at various regional and national forums on sustainable bioenergy development over the past two years and a key element of FAO’s ongoing commitment to the ASEAN community.
Today represents an important opportunity for ASEAN and Plus Three member states to discuss the program of activities proposed under the project and assist FAO ensure that the project will meet the specific needs and expectations of member states in supporting the Cha-am/Hua Hin Statement. Your guidance is also essential to make sure that the activities implemented under this project are consistent with and support other regional efforts to promote food security and renewable energy development in the region through mechanisms such as the ASEAN Integrated Food Security Framework and Strategic Plan of Action and the ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation.
I am very glad to see that there is strong representation from both the Ministries of Agriculture and Energy at the meeting here today. As you are no doubt aware, bioenergy cuts across a number of policy disciplines. Strong, sustained cooperation is needed if we are going to ensure that sustainable, food secure, climate-friendly bioenergy contributes to future economic development in ASEAN Member States. I commend your presence here today and trust it will lead to enduring partnership and collaboration on this important topic.
I wish you all the best for a productive meeting.