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Bioenergy and bioeconomy: working together to put planning into action


The joint International Energy Agency (IEA) Bioenergy Task 43 and FAO workshop on sustainable landscape management for bioenergy and the bioeconomy marked an important collaboration between FAO and IEA. It was a first step towards placing the discussion on biomass feedstock systems in the broader framework of bioeconomy, focusing on the concrete outcomes of bioenergy usage.

“The workshop was mutually beneficial for both IEA Bioenergy and FAO as many overlaps in the research programme were detected which show the great opportunities to create synergies in the upcoming period”said Biljana Kulisic from the Energy Institute Hrvoje Pozar, Croatia.

Over the two days, 30 representatives from both FAO and IEA Bioenergy, attended the workshop and shared case studies and evidence on how biomass can be produced together with food and other products in sustainably managed landscapes.The days were divided into group work and presentations that showcased the work of both IEA Bioenergy Task 43 and FAO in promoting integrated food-energy systems that support people and the climate. The workshop was an occasion to better understand one anothers skills and expertise for future collaboration.

“Bioenergy is multi-disciplinary in nature, so its important to ensure that it is tackled in a multidisciplinary fashion that includes all perspectives. This workshop was a first step to approach bioenergy across institutions and disciplines, in a more cohesive way – we hope that somehow working together we can move forward.” explained Olivier Dubois, the FAO Energy team leader.

This is not the first time FAO and IEA have organised a workshop together but it was the first time that the focus has been on bioeconomy. We’ve all heard about the benefits of renewable energy that comes from organic material and the potential for this bioenergy globally­­ is substantial, but it is not just about bioenergy – bioenergy must be considered within the larger bioeconomy.

What is the bioeconomy?

The bioeconomy is based on the production of renewable biological resources and the conversion of these resources and waste streams into value added products, such as food, feed, bio-based products and bioenergy.  It involves three elements: 

  1. The use of renewable biomass and efficient bioprocesses to achieve sustainable production. 
  2. The use of enabling and converging technologies, including biotechnology. 
  3. Integration between sectors such as agriculture, health and industry.

The cross-cutting nature of the bioeconomy offers an opportunity to address interconnected societal challenges such as food security, fossil-resource dependence, natural resource scarcity and climate change, while achieving sustainable economic development.

However, simply developing bioeconomy is not sustainable. The development of an economy that is based on biomass resources faces several trade-offs. It is crucial that bioeconomy development does not hamper but rather strengthens food security as a basic human need and right, while also helping to achieve several other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

FAO and IEA Bioenergy Task 43

IEA Bioenergy Task 43: Biomass Feedstocks for Energy Markets seeks to promote sound bioenergy development that is driven by well-informed decisions in business, governments and elsewhere. This will be achieved by providing relevant stakeholders with timely analyses and conclusions on all fields related to biomass feedstock, including biomass markets and the socioeconomic and environmental consequences of feedstock production.

Task 43 launched an initiative to identify attractive examples of landscape management and design for bioenergy and the bioeconomy and the two-day worshop was organized around this theme. The goal of this initiative is to compile world-wide innovative examples as a means of showcasing how the production of biomass for bioenergy can generate positive impacts in agriculture and forestry landscapes. These examples are also meant to serve as sources of inspiration that other biomass producers can use to enhance the sustainability of their own activities.

Task 43 is closely interlinked with FAO’s efforts to promote food and energy security, develop energy-smart food systems and contribute to agricultural and rural development. FAO’s work is concentrated on supporting countries through the main stages of bioenergy policy development and implementation, through online tools and guidance such as the Bioenergy and Food Security (BEFS) Approach. In addition, FAO’s Energy Smart Food Programme (ESF) promotes integrated food-energy systems for climate-smart agricultural activities.

Next steps

In the coming months, a report will be published by IEA Bioenergy detailing examples of sustainable bioenergy usage in different settings around the world. The publiciation will draw on examples shared during presentations and will include key outcomes of group discussions at last week’s workshop.

For more information on FAO, bioenergy and the bioeconomy visit FAO’s Energy website.