UN launches the International Biofuels Forum
06 March 2007, Biofuel Review
London: In launching its International Biofuels Forum today (2nd March) the United Nations said that the forum will contribute to creating a world market for alternative fuels, resulting in economic, social and environmental benefits for developed and developing countries alike.
The forum, a joint project of Brazil, China, India, South Africa, the United States and the European Commission, will initially be established for one year and meet regularly to discuss ways to promote the sustained use and production of biofuels around the globe.
“Biofuels constitute a viable economic alternative for the partial substitution of fossil fuels and the diversification of the world’s energy mix,” said Antonio Patriota, Ambassador of Brazil to the United States. “This initiative creates a mechanism to structure the dialogue among the biggest producers and consumers of biofuels.”
He added that the introduction of biofuels would benefit developed countries through increasing energy security by reducing the dependence on fossil fuels and contributing to lower greenhouse gas emissions. For developing countries, greater use of biofuels would significantly reduce dependence on imported oil, redressing trade imbalances and freeing up income for investments in health, education and social programmes.
“Access to affordable energy is fundamental to economic and social development,” said Thomas A. Shannon, Jr., United States Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.
He noted that the initiative would help countries with the agricultural productive potential to become major suppliers of alternative fuels. “This a huge step forward in the development of a new international understanding of energy.”
Liu Zhenmin, deputy Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations concurred that the development and sustained use of biofuels would contribute to social and economic development and improve the world’s energy structure, diversifying energy sources.
“It’s also important for the international efforts aimed at mitigating climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” he added.
Another objective of the biofuels initiative was job creation, added Elsa du Toit, Director, Energy Efficiency, Department of Minerals and Energy of South Africa. “We want to ensure that previously disadvantaged people and people in rural communities will be close to where the biofuels initiative will take place, and they will receive the benefits of this initiative.”
Asked whether the Forum would only be able to make recommendations or if it would have enforcement power, Mr. Patriota said he wished to clarify that the Forum was not a new international organization, but rather a mechanism for closer coordination among the field’s major players to establish common standards and work towards the commoditization of biofuels, so that they might eventually be traded like oil. The forum would continue to work in the six-party format for the time being, but, in the future, would bring in other players, he said.
In response to questions about why the Forum did not include representation from the Middle East or the Russian Federation, and whether those countries would eventually be included in negotiations, Mr. Patriota said that Brazil and the Russian Federation were currently discussing the matter bilaterally and that Middle Eastern countries would be represented as part of Asia or Africa.
“This is not a closed club,” he added. “We would welcome very much contacts with other nations across the globe.”
In response to a question about how much of the fuel consumed in the world might eventually come from biofuels, Eduardo Pereira de Carvalho, the President of UNICA, a group representing 70 per cent of ethanol producers in Brazil, said that 2 or 3 per cent was most likely initially. That figure could someday rise to as high as 30 per cent, however. Given his expectation that oil prices would climb in the coming years, he said that biofuels were an “important participant of the new energy matrix of the twenty-first century”.
“What we are doing is much more than responding to high gasoline or oil prices,” he added, noting that the Biofuels Forum was aimed at addressing fuel supply security, global warming and the use of biofuels as an instrument for development.