World Bank Bioenergy & Sustainability Symposium discusses roadmap for scaling up sustainable bioenergy

september 29, 2015

Independent report states bioenergy can bring a cleaner future and improve socio-economic development

Climate change and pollution can be reduced by large scale implementation of bioenergy and production of biobased chemicals and materials. This can be done with positive effects on food security and maintaining biodiversity, and will create business opportunities and improve social development. How to achieve this was discussed on 28 September 2015, at the World Bank in Washington DC in a meeting hosted by the Energy & Extractives Global Practice and the Agriculture Global Practice of the World Bank Group. The statements are based on an extensive report with contributions from 137 researchers from 24 countries.

Key points of the symposium

The attendants of World Bank specialists, development aid experts and key politicians fully endorsed that bioenergy can bring sustainable development. The focus should be on actual deployment and new approaches to cover the financial risks of setting up large scale production units which can make a difference. There is no time to lose, given the urgent climate change challenge, to make a dedicated integrated action plan for the industry, academia, the World Bank, policy makers and governmental institutions. Other key points in the discussion were how to create positive synergies, increase sustainable biomass production and achieve technology transfer for less developed regions. Social development was seen as key to realise sustainable implementation supporting the climate change goals. Attendants discussed options for consistent long term policies and financial investment schemes.

SCOPE report and Policy Brief

The meeting discussed the findings of a global scientific evaluation on Bioenergy & Sustainability that was launched in April 2015, carried out under the aegis of the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) with leadership from the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) Bioenergy Research Program (BIOEN-FAPESP). BE-Basic Foundation experts contributed to 9 of the 21 chapters. The opportunities and recommendations of the SCOPE report and Policy Brief provided important input for the discussion. It was generally agreed that long term consistent policies are crucial to fight climate change, but also to ensure that bioenergy production can indeed change unsustainable agricultural practices. 

Food security is a major challenge, but as Patricia Osseweijer from TU Delft and lead author of the bioenergy and food security chapter points out: “Food and energy insecurities still affect nearly one billion people, of which 75% live in rural areas. In these areas, the traditional use of biomass for cooking still dominates with major health and environmental issues. Especially there, modern biobased technology can really make a difference and help to provide bioenergy to stimulate social development and improve food security.” 

The full SCOPE report and the Policy Brief can be downloaded at

Renewable biobased sources

Also in the Netherlands, large scale biobased project can play an important role. A good example is the Redefinery Project, an initiative by several industrial clusters, for which BE-Basic Foundation delivers the technological knowledge. Luuk van der Wielen (President of BE-Basic Foundation) is one of the 137 contributors of the SCOPE report. He underlines the need to make a switch to the biobased economy: “A temperature rise of 2°C or more will have huge negative climate and thereby economic impacts, cumulating to at least 1 trillion USD the next decade. Phasing out fossil resources will affect the revenue and asset value of the fossil industry, in which large institutional investors (i.e. pension funds) have high stakes. They need to turn to alternative, renewable sources, including biobased to solve the resource security and stabilise their financial positions. Also for developing countries with their opportunity of land and human capital availability and necessary income development, -bioenergy solutions done right- can critically contribute to sustainable growth. Implementation is important for everyone.”