As a result of the sharp increases in oil prices last year, the emerging interest in bioenergy during the last five years has been heightened further. The interest nevertheless has been focused on the production of liquid biofuels, electricity and industrial process heat.
However in our region, the Asia-Pacific Region, the use of biomass energy for heating remains significant. It remains to be the main fuel for cooking in billions of households and for process heating in millions of “small, medium and micro enterprises” or “SMMEs”. These uses involved mostly traditional devices which are inefficient. They generate emissions that results to indoor air pollution, and if supply biomass is not assured to be sustainable, then they add to emissions resulting to climate change.
Aside from the previous FAO Regional Wood Energy Development Programme in Asia, implemented by this office till 2001 – there had been no other renewable energy programme on bioenergy development in this region that addressed the heating needs of the above-mentioned energy users – the households and the SMMEs. These energy users consist of the marginalized, but a major segment, of the population of this region.
The billions of biomass-using households are mostly the poor segment of the population. They are found in both rural and urban areas, although the rural population remains the majority in most of the countries in our region. The SMMEs include both crop processing activities and off-farm enterprises which are significant source of income for the rural poor.
This is particularly true in the South Asia sub-region, which is the focus of this project. The sub-region has both the highest number of poor people and people dependent of bioenergy for their heating needs across the globe.
Encouraging their continued use of biomass by promoting sustainable, efficient and clean use of biomass fuels through improved/modern bioenergy technologies can help reduce GHG emissions. Such contribution to reduction to GHG emissions can be further enhanced if use of sustainable bioenergy can be further expanded so as to reduce current use of fossil fuels.
Furthermore, such programmes can also be designed to have a parallel objective of helping achieve eradication of poverty, food security and other MDG goals. Efficient improved and modern bioenergy technologies can provide cost effective fuel to provide the energy needs of agricultural production and SMME operations, which could help lower cost of production for more profitable and cost efficient business operations thereby creating opportunities for long-term sources of rural employment and income.
The production, harvesting, processing and marketing of bioenergy itself can be a significant source of local income and employment. It is already such, given the active wood fuels markets that we see in almost all urban areas and town centres of the different developing countries of this region. Improvement, assurance of sustainability and expansion of these traditional wood fuels markets can be an immediate strategy to generate long-term local employment and income, given the current sharp increase in oil price which not anymore foreseen to soften again.
Thus, this project is very relevant to the FAO’s mandate of achieving sustainable agriculture and rural development. FAO is launching this year its International Bioenergy Programme and this project, if approved, would be a key component, particularly in our region.
I understand that you are in the final phase of this PDF-B activity; you are now writing the final project document that will be submitted to the GEF Secretariat. We are greatly encouraged by the presence of Mr. Tom Hamlin of UNEP-Paris Office in this meeting which to us is an indication of UNEP’s interest and support to our partnership towards a successful completion of this PDF-B – the approval by the GEFSEC of our project proposal.
I would like to acknowledge also the contribution of our experts from our target countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka for their efforts in coming up with the needed inputs in the PDF-B activity and mobilizing an effective stakeholders involvement process in their respective countries to assure that interests of all the affected players are taken consideration in the project formulation process.
I would like to thank also the participation of eminent resource from India, coming from two of the country’s leading institutions – to assist us prepare the project document. Even if India is not officially involved in this project; there is a significant role awaiting Indian institutions, companies and experts when this project is approved and finally implemented as the country has been in the forefront of the development and commercialization of bioenergy technologies not only in the sub-region but in the world.
I would therefore wish you the most success in your two-day deliberations.