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LONDON: A report from the Energy Transitions Commission (ETC), a private sector coalition, says demand for bio-resources is expected to outstrip sustainable supply, undermining climate mitigation efforts.

The ETC includes ArcelorMittal, Bank of America, BP, Development Research Center of the State Council of China, EBRD, Heathrow, HSBC, Iberdrola, Ørsted, Tata Group, Volvo Group and the World Resources Institute (WRI).

The report, produced by consulting company Systemiq, says aviation is the only industry where biomass-based energy in the form of biofuels should play a major future role because alternative synthetic fuels will not meet the expected level of demand fast enough.

The ETC says to be sustainable, biomass production should have low lifecycle GHG emissions; its production should take into account the opportunity cost related to carbon that could be sequestered without intervention; must not compete with use of land for food production; trigger any land use change that could release carbon stocks into the atmosphere (especially deforestation); and negatively impact biodiversity and ecosystem health.

“The good news is that clean electrification and hydrogen often provide a cheaper solution,” noted ETC chair Adair Turner. “The challenge for policymakers is to develop those alternatives fast, while supporting targeted use of biomass where it is most needed – in materials, aviation and for carbon removals – with a constant attention to ensuring supply of biomass is truly sustainable.”

The Systemiq report describes four priorities for industry and governments to ensure the sustainable future use of bio-resources: Devise and adopt comprehensive and specific biomass sourcing regulation and reporting standards; further increase sustainable supply by improving waste collection, seaweed-for-energy production and encourage massive dietary change; prioritise the use of bio-resources with carbon pricing to allocate scarce, sustainable supply; and support key technologies to enable efficient, sustainable supply and use.

“The world has a fixed quantity of land, while demand for food, fiber, carbon storage and biodiversity continues to grow,” said WRI Interim president and CEO Manish Bapna. “We can’t have an ‘all of the above’ strategy; there are real trade-offs in play, requiring informed decisions. This analysis helps open that dialogue.”

Bapna takes up his appointment as president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) on August 23.
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