Distinguished guests and participants,
Ladies and gentlemen,
On a global scale, oil remains the major energy source today. However, since last year we are again seeing a strengthening of oil prices, said to be driven mainly by demand for energy by countries that experience rapidly economic development and by supply worries resulting from the Iraq war. The resulting upsurge in oil prices has led to immediate increases in the price of goods and services and may result to a slowing down of economic growth worldwide. This was pointed out in the recent G7 meeting. If the adverse impacts in developed economies are significant, the impacts could be even worse among the developing countries.
Indeed, energy services are vital to keep economic sectors and residential activities running. For less developed segments of society, access to clean and affordable energy is essential for poverty alleviation through the supply of heat, light and power as well as a host of other benefits such as the generation of income and the improvement of urban and rural health.
Against this background, increasing oil prices present opportunities to accelerate the promotion and commercialization of renewable energy, including bioenergy. The advantages of bioenergy as a renewable and locally-produced energy source become more evident to more people, and the economics of bioenergy technologies grow more attractive.
Bioenergy include biofuels (solid fuels, biogas, liquid fuels such as bioethanol and biodiesel) which come from fuelwood and other woody biomass, crops such as sugar cane and beet, maize and energy grass, agricultural wastes and by-products, livestock manure, and others.
Bioenergy in general and wood energy in particular are dominant sources of energy for about half of the world’s population who are the poorest of the poor, and who use this energy mainly for cooking. They have very limited access to other forms of energy such as electricity or liquid fuels.
In addition, recent awareness of the need to mitigate climate change has renewed the attention on bioenergy in both developing and industrialized countries as an environmentally friendly, cost-effective and locally available source of energy. Thus, bioenergy has emerged as a key factor in both developmental and environmental terms.
As you are aware that the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development called for improving access to modern biomass technologies and fuelwood sources and supplies and commercialize biomass operations, including the use of agricultural residues, in rural areas and where such practices are sustainable. The summit also called for the promotion of “a sustainable use of biomass and, as appropriate, other renewable energies through improvement of current patterns of use, such as management of resources, more efficient use of fuelwood and new or improved products and technologies.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Agriculture and forestry could become leading sources of bioenergy, a key element in achieving two of the UN Millennium Development Goals: eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and ensuring environmental sustainability. Increased use of bioenergy can help diversify agricultural and forestry activities and improve food security, while contributing to sustainable development.
At the same time, FAO is aware that conventional agricultural and forestry sectors will have to face radical changes to overcome the main challenges generated by a potentially soaring need to produce energy from biomass. The Organization also realizes that higher demand for bioenergy sources, in turn, will have both positive and negative impacts on the environmental and energy issues mentioned earlier. In this connection, during the 19th session of FAO’s Committee of Agriculture held two weeks ago in Rome, three major areas have been identified that require particular attention in order to mobilize the full potential of bioenergy: policies and institutions; capacities; and technical and economic issues.
FAO has more than 20 years of experience with the development and promotion of bioenergy. It has paid special attention to the generation and dissemination of bioenergy information; technical assistance to member countries; assessment of funding and finance mechanisms for bioenergy development; and cooperation with national, regional and international partners.
Relying on this expertise and with the support of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), FAO is currently developing a project proposal entitled Reducing greenhouse gas emission by promoting bioenergy technologies for heat applications.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This project will be the first regional GEF project on mitigation of climate change in South Asia by promoting commercialisation of renewable energy technologies to reduce GHG emissions. The proposed participating countries are Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. It will focus on the small and micro-enterprise sectors, impacting directly on rural income, equity and gender development, as most of the beneficiaries will be small rural-based entrepreneurs, many of them women.
This Experts Group Meeting aims to set the course for country-level activities to provide inputs needed and initiate the formulation of the full-size GEF project. Foremost among these is the conduct of the national market studies for commercial or near-commercial bioenergy technologies developed in the target countries and elsewhere, such as in India and China – two countries leading bioenergy development in Asia. We have with us bioenergy experts, who can provide advice in selecting technologies. However, the final decisions will have to be country-driven; the decisions will be based on the results of the national market studies.
Stakeholders’ involvement is another key principle used in GEF operational programmes, and will need to be elaborated during the meeting.
Finally, the project would hopefully successfully break new grounds by developing a methodology to quantify reductions in greenhouse gas emission and pave the way for the formulation of investments in similar projects in the future.
The implementation of the project should provide a convincing case that the use of bioenergy for heat applications could indeed be a significant strategy for reducing GHG emissions and mitigating climate change. This is the bigger challenge ahead of us.
With the Kyoto Protocol made effective early this year, sources of financing for similar projects had opened up under the Clean Development Mechanism or CDM. The proposed project, starting with this Expert Group Meeting, has a strategic bearing on the use of CDM for funding future investments in bioenergy for heat applications in the small and micro industry sectors to reduce GHG emission and help mitigate climate change.
I wish you a successful meeting and a pleasant stay in Bangkok.