The guest editorial for this issue has been written by Omar Masera, who is Professor of Energy and the Environment at the Instituto de Ecología of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Professor Masera, who is currently working with our Wood Energy Programme as a Visiting Scientist under FAO's Academic Programme, has just been awarded the National Prize for Young Scientists from the Mexican Academy of Sciences. We would like to thank him for his insights.

I am pleased to have been invited as guest editor for this issue of Forest Energy Forum. Since its creation in 1997, FEF has served as a valuable focal discussion point for those of us involved with the diverse and rich problematique of wood energy. FEF has also provided a unique publication niche with fresh insights and important news on the different technical, environmental and socio-economic issues concerning wood energy supply and use.

Woodfuels, and more generally biofuels, are at the core of many critical issues concerning the promotion of sustainable rural development: environmental restoration and climate change mitigation; employment and income generation in rural areas; women's empowerment; and technological change. Improving the current patterns of use and, at the same time, enlarging the contribution of bioenergy to the present world energy mix will require sustained support and an integrated approach.

The climate change negotiations at the Seventh Session of the Conference of Parties (COP7) in Marrakech have finally resumed with a series of general agreements that open the door for the urgently needed ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. The market for carbon credits - even if currently without the United States which, however, will still participate under "voluntary" programmes - will be rapidly evolving. An important boost to renewable energy sources, and specifically to bioenergy, is thus expected soon.

Are we prepared for coping with this challenge? Support for bioenergy has grown fast in many industrialized countries in recent years, but it is almost non-existent in developing countries. Specifically within Europe, political decisions on bioenergy are now advancing even faster than its practical implementation, and the promotion of biofuels through large tax incentives and ambitious targets for increasing the share of bioenergy in Europe's overall energy mix is already in the process of being approved (see the article on page 16 in this issue). Unfortunately, the same is not true in most developing countries, where fuelwood and charcoal remain the main fuels but support to bioenergy continues to be minimal and fragmented, and R&D funding for improved systems and technology are virtually negligible. Sustained efforts are required in the fields of biomass supply (e.g. more accurate estimates of productivity, reliability, accessibility and costs of biofuels), marketing and use if the economic potential is to be realized. You can read more about this subject in "News and Notes".

In this issue we present encouraging contributions from numerous experts that advance our knowledge in the diverse aspects needed to foster bioenergy. The articles and notes cover, inter alia, the socio-economic aspects of woodfuel use, country specific situations from developing and industrialized countries, methodological issues regarding the wood energy terminology and its spatial supply-demand analysis, as well as the climate change implications of bioenergy.

The "Special Features" section discusses the advances in the Unified Wood Energy Terminology. It also includes extensive coverage of the activities conducted in the realm of the International Energy Agency Special Task on Bioenergy. Within "Country Compass" we visit all continents, devoting special attention to the review of the biofuel situation in Ghana. There is information in the "Forests branch off ..." section on recent events in the field of climate change negotiation, particularly regarding carbon sequestration, including new modelling efforts to estimate more accurately the time evolution of carbon emissions and sequestration associated with different forest management systems. "News and Notes" presents a collection of contributions dealing with aspects of bioenergy and poverty and its associated health impacts, improved methodologies for estimating woodfuel supplies and geographical patterns, and many other issues.

I am sure you will find this issue of Forest Energy Forum as exciting and worth reading as I did.

Omar Masera