Biofuels: an opportunity for Africa – big interest for ABBBA's seminar which focused on South’s views
Biofuels are often discussed in terms of whether it is right or wrong to use. Rather than to talk about being for or against biofuels, this ABBBA seminar focused on biofuels from a perspective of the global south.
ABBBA is a three-year Sida financed project, aimed to increase funding in biofuels, mainly in African countries. Nearly 80 people participated in the seminar on 14th of March. Bo Göransson, former Director General of Sida and chairman of ABBBA, moderated the seminar.
Anders Arvidson from Sida´s African department opened the seminar by talking about Sida´s policies for biofuels. Within the policy for environmental and energy, issued by the Swedish parliament, the importance of energy for poverty reduction is emphazised. Even though the policy does not explicitly refer to the word biofuels, it is applicable for the content in the suggested policies.
– Regarding Tanzania, you can read in the policy that Sweden´s contribution should result in more jobs and develop the energy- and agricultural markets, says Anders Arvidson.
Sida´s work with biofuels is based on four components: resilience and energy security, environment and climate change, poverty reduction and intensification of agriculture and forestry. A development of biofuels can reduce development countries´ dependence of energy from other parts of the world, and reduce the carbon footprint by doing right from the beginning. Furthermore, an increased production of biofuels can combat poverty when new jobs and investments in technologies in agriculture are created. This can in turn provide better yields and increased food production.
Francis X Johnson, senior adviser at the Stockholm Environment Institute, talked about which political driving forces that can lead to an increased production of biofuels. In line with Sida´s four dimensions, Francis X Johnson mentioned energy security, sustainable development, environmental security and food security as key drivers. He also emphasized that biofuels are best suited to be produced in the South, since it is more effective.
– Biomass in the South is on average five times more productive, which have positive effects when it comes to land use and carbon emissions, said Francis X Johnson.
The next speaker was Edgar Dias Batista, Phd in sustainable technology at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), who talked about his project “The South in Driving Seat – A global perspective on biofuels and sustainability: The Brazilian Road”. The project focuses on the Brazilian biofuel producers vision on biofuels and sustainability. Dias Batista stressed that Brazilian producers tend to see EU´s Renewable Energy Directive as a trade barrier, and that the directive ignores the benefits of by-products.
Next up was Mattias Goldmann, CEO of Fores and the initiator of ABBBA, who introduced the African perspective with the report Biofuels: What if the Global South set the rules? – African farmers´ and producers´ views on sustainability requirements.
The starting point for this project was the rapid increase of biomass, which calls for the need to focus on how we can develop biofuels in the most sustainable way. For Africa, it is important to reduce the dependence on oil as the price per barrel has risen substantially in recent years.
– From an African perspective, it is not primarily the climate issue that has been a driving force in the conversion to biofuels, but the fact that the price of oil has doubled every four years over the past decade, said Mattias Goldmann.
But what are the opinions of the African biofuel producers about the sustainability standards set by the EU for the production of biofuels? Mattias Goldmann mentioned eight issues where the EU Renewable Energy Directive creates a problem for African farmers. The first thing was the need to preserve biodiversity, which prevents farmers from cultivating the most fertile land.
– In Kenya, much of the fertile land is protected by being wildlife preserve, while European states already have converted sensitive land and forest to agricultural land. It is seen to be unfair to set very high standards for the protection of biodiversity. The African biofuel producers thinks it should be protected by national legislation rather than by European directives.
Mattias Goldmann also mentioned the fact that the sustainability requirements for biofuels are not matched by similar requirements for either the sugar production or production of fossil fuels, as constituting another barrier. The result of the study shows that EU policies have led to a situation that favours the established European producers, instead of African producers.
Caroline Ochieng, from the Stockholm Environment Institute, talked about a new project which focuses on sustainability in an African context. The project aims to present empirical evidence on how biofuel impacts on wealth and poverty in Southern Africa. The project will be conducted through case studies in Mozambique, Malawi and Swaziland.
In the last session, Martin Prieto Beaulieu from the Swedish Green Motorist, talked about the role of consumers and their behaviour in encouraging the use of biofuels. He highlighted the need for more information in order to make the consumers able to influence. The Swedish Green Motorist has examined where our oil comes from in a recent report, showing that Russia accounts for 42 percent of Sweden´s imports.
– I don´t want to use their fuel, I prefer to use Swedish locally produced fuels. Or, to get more out of my money, I want to be able to support families in Brazil and Africa to support the fight against poverty.
Because of this, the Swedish Green Motorist has launched the campaign Jag vill veta (“I want to know”) about the need of having more information on the fuel pumps – the origin of the oil, the production and the climate benefits. Anyone who wants can join the campaign through social media.
Download the Swedish Green Motorists’ report ”The South in the Driving Seat – A global perspective on Biofuels and Sustainability: The Brazilian Road”.
See a video from the seminar here.
Read more about ABBBA here.