Sustainablity indicators for bioenergy

January 18, 2012 | 00:00

Sustainablity indicators for bioenergy

The Global Bioenergy Partnership (GBEP) has published its report on sustainability indicators for bioenergy, providing an invaluable resource in helping countries assess and develop sustainable production and use of bioenergy.

The report represents the first global, government-level consensus on sustainability indicators for bioenergy and is the concrete evidence of how GBEP Partners and Observers have successfully responded to the mandates received from successive Group of Eight Summits in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Publication of “The Global Bioenergy Partnership Sustainability Indicators for Bioenergy” is announced in occasion of the opening of the World Future Energy Summit and the launch of the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All, today in Abu Dhabi.

The report – featuring 24 sustainability indicators and their respective methodology sheets – is intended to provide policymakers and other stakeholders with a tool that can support the development of national bioenergy policies and programmes as well as help interpret and respond to the environmental, social and economic impacts of bioenergy production and use. The indicators take a holistic approach to assessing many important aspects of the intersection of bioenergy and sustainability, including greenhouse gas emissions, biological diversity, the price and supply of a national food basket, access to energy, economic development and energy security.

Executive summary

The Global Bioenergy Partnership (GBEP) has a clearly defined mission: to promote the wider production and use of modern bioenergy, particularly in the developing world where traditional use of biomass is prevalent. Exactly how modern bioenergy is developed, deployed, and used is a decision that individual countries will make according to their domestic needs and circumstances. The Partnership established the Task Force on Sustainability to promote the sustainable production and use of bioenergy. The Task Force has developed a science-based, technically-sound, and highly relevant set of measurements and indicators that can inform policy-makers and other stakeholders in countries seeking to develop their bioenergy sector to help meet national goals of sustainable development.

This report presents 24 indicators of sustainability regarding the production and use of modern bioenergy, broadly defined. These indicators were developed to provide policy-makers and other stakeholders a set of analytical tools that can inform the development of national bioenergy policies and programs and monitor the impact of these policies and programs. The indicators were developed by the Partners and Observers of GBEP and provide a framework for assessing the relationship between production and use of modern bioenergy and sustainable development. The indicators were intentionally crafted to report on the environmental, social and economic aspects of sustainable development.

The GBEP indicators are unique in that they are a product of the only multilateral initiative that has built consensus on the sustainable production and use of bioenergy among a wide range of national governments and international organizations. The indicators are meant to guide analysis at the domestic level and to inform decision-making that encourages the sustainable production and use of bioenergy as a means towards meeting national goals of sustainable development. Measured over time, the indicators will show progress towards or away from a nationally-defined sustainable development path. The indicators are value neutral, do not feature directions, thresholds or limits and do not constitute a standard, nor are they legally binding. The indicators are intended to inform policy-making and facilitate the sustainable development of bioenergy, and shall not be applied so as to limit trade in bioenergy in a manner inconsistent with multilateral trade obligations.

The benefits and challenges of bioenergy
The production and use of bioenergy is growing in many parts of the world as countries seek to diversify their energy sources in a manner that helps promote economic development, energy security and environmental quality. Modern bioenergy can provide multiple benefits, including promoting rural economic development, increasing household income, mitigating climate change, and providing access to modern energy services. On the other hand, bioenergy can also be associated with risks, such as biodiversity loss, deforestation, additional pressure on GBEP Global Bioenergy Partnership water resources, and increased demand for agricultural inputs, land, and commodities. The evaluation of the benefits and challenges of bioenergy production and use should reflect the national context.

Encouraging all stakeholders to use the sustainability indicators
Policy-makers and other stakeholders require information in order to develop and evaluate policy decisions. GBEP encourages all stakeholders, including public officials, technical experts, farmers, producers, and civil society, to use this set of indicators in a holistic and inclusive manner as a framework for planning the sustainable production and use of bioenergy. This set of indicators can empower policy-makers and other stakeholders to take into account the economic, environmental, and social aspects of modern bioenergy that are the most relevant for their domestic needs and circumstances. The indicators are objective, technically sound, valueneutral metrics that inform the policy-making process and report on the impact of policies. The indicators presented here are not themselves instruments of policy. The indicators are written so as to encourage and assist stakeholders to undertake the necessary analytical work of implementing these indicators immediately without the need for developing separate additional metrics of sustainability.

Using the indicators
GBEP prepared this report to present a set of sustainability-related themes and indicators important to consider when developing a modern bioenergy sector. The report provides relevant background in Chapter 2 on how the indicators were developed and describes the three pillars of sustainable development – economic, environmental, and social – in the context of bioenergy.

Each indicator was developed with three parts: a name, a short description, and a multi-page methodology sheet that provides in-depth information needed to evaluate the indicator. The methodology sheet describes how the indicator relates to relevant themes of sustainability and how the indicator contributes towards assessing sustainability at the national level. The methodology sheets outline the approach for collecting and analyzing the data needed to evaluate the indicator and for making relevant comparisons to other energy options or agricultural systems. The methodology sheet also provides information on data limitations and highlights potential bottlenecks to data acquisition. Further the methodology sheets highlight relevant international and national processes with links to publicly available data sources in an extensive reference section. This reference section gives stakeholders, scientists and policymakers access to a breadth of resources with which they can tailor theses indicators to be domestically relevant.

The indicators are starting points from which policy-makers and other stakeholders can identify and develop measurements and domestic data sources that are relevant to their nationally-Executive summary defined needs and circumstances. The GBEP indicators do not provide answers or correct
values of sustainability, but rather present the right questions to ask in assessing the effect of modern bioenergy production and use in meeting nationally-defined goals of sustainable development.

To view the indicators and the full report click here.

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