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This report has been prepared as a contribution by FAO to the work of the ninth session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-9), to be held in April 2001, where the sectoral theme of Atmosphere/Energy and the economic theme of Energy/Transport will be discussed.

The report examines the links between energy and agriculture. It highlights the dual role of agriculture as an energy user and as an energy producer. This dual function implies greater agricultural productivity on the one hand, and higher levels of energy sustainability through the production of CO2-neutral bioenergy on the other. As the international community discusses ways and means to achieve more sustainable energy systems, it is vital to recall that around two billion people in the world are still energy-starved. There are many rural people in developing countries who rely on meagre energy inputs for their subsistence needs, with little or no energy available for productive or income-generating activities. A transition to more sustainable rural energy systems is urgent, and CSD-9 could make an important contribution in this respect. A more extensive use of bioenergy will lead to considerable benefits to the global environment and to the development of local infrastructure, but the potential conflicts with food production and impacts of land use change must be followed closely. FAO is currently strengthening its bioenergy programme with the aim of contributing to a partial substitution of fossil fuels by biofuels. The report will add to the discussions on the above issues by providing the latest thinking, examples and data, while avoiding being prescriptive.

The report was coordinated by Mr Gustavo Best, and was prepared with the assistance of Mr David Martin, to whom we express our sincere appreciation for his dedication and interest. Special thanks also go to Messrs Michele Bernardi, Tudor Botzan, Bart van Campen, He Changchui, Lawrence Clarke, Theodor Friedrich, Torsten Frisk, René Gommes, Peter Griffee, Wulf Killmann, Ali Mekouar, Morton Satin, Peter Steele and Miguel Trossero, who provided inputs and comments during the different stages of preparation of the report. FAO gratefully acknowledges the support provided by the UK Permanent Representation to the United Nations Agriculture Agencies in Rome and by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), which made the preparation of this report possible.

FAO hopes that this study will contribute to a much needed change in the energy scenario of rural areas in developing countries and, most important, to greater concerted and consolidated international actions towards global energy sustainability. FAO looks forward to the CSD-9 deliberations and, in particular, to its follow-up.

Jacques Eckebil
FAO Sustainable Development Department

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