Energy and environmental technology Environment

Posted April 2000

FAO and bioenergy

The issues

Bioenergy1 issues and biofuels2 have been on FAO's agenda for decades. In the context of the mitigation of climate change, biofuels have gained renewed attention.

Issues connected with bioenergy are:

Related problems to be solved are:

FAO's view

Production and use of biofuels as an energy source are linked to a host of issues, such as agriculture and food security, land use and rural development, sustainable forest management and biodiversity conservation, and mitigation of climate change.

Bioenergy has to be seen in its relation to poverty, population development and health. The fact that women and children in many rural areas spend a good portion of their working day in search of fuelwood, reflect the need to look at bioenergy in the context of gender roles and survival strategies for the poorest of the poor.

To be resolved are imbalances between household economy and environment, between conservation and consumption of biofuels and between present and future needs of societies. In the meantime, ways of producing and distributing conventional energy are changing as a result of such new approaches as privatization, decentralization, trade liberalization and globalization.


FAO's comparative advantage

FAO has a longstanding global mandate from its member countries to promote renewable energies within the agricultural, forestry, and other energy demanding and/or producing sectors. FAO calls upon the necessary multidisciplinary expertise in the different areas of agriculture, forestry and economics to comply with this mandate. For many years, FAO has been developing multidisciplinary approaches and providing technical expertise in the field of bioenergy. A database on the production, trade and flow of woodfuels at country level has been regularly maintained since 1961, representing one of the most complete time-series available.

Through its Regular Programme, FAO has become expert in the development of methodologies and definitions, management and analysis of databases, policy advice and development of nationally and regionally specialized bioenergy studies. Similarly, FAO's expertise has been strengthened over the many decades of implementing field projects funded by donor agencies aimed at:

FAO's role

The main objective of FAO's new bioenergy programme is to contribute to a partial substitution of fossil fuels through biofuels, as well as the more rational, efficient, effective and safe utilization of biofuels.

To achieve this, FAO strives to:

1Bioenergy is understood as energy generated through biofuels. (Traction)energy provided through human or animal work, important in many countries, is excluded in this context.
2Biofuels are fuels of biological and renewable origin, such as fuelwood, charcoal, lifestock manure, biogas, biohydrogen, bioalcohol, microbial biomass, agricultural waste and byproducts, energy crops, and others.

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