Ag Sector and Biofuels Can Play Key Role in GHG Reduction Plans

A key mission of the 25x’25 Alliance is the promotion of biofuels as a pathway that can help take this country to a clean energy future. 25x’25 is the clean energy platform of Solutions from the Land (SfL) and SfL is promoting biofuel development as a primary building block for achieving one of the three pillars of climate smart agriculture – reducing or removing/sequestering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Recent publications from prominent sources underscore the value of biofuels in meeting GHG reduction targets to stem and reverse climate change, including a broad analysis done by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the role agriculture will play in the various plans (Intended Nationally Determine Contributions, or INDCs) that nations have submitted to meet those emission-reduction targets.

FAO’s draft report – The Agriculture Sectors in the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions – shows that while many nations around the world have chosen to include biofuels in their INDCs, the United States has not. It’s a shortcoming that would seem to undercut the Obama administration’s otherwise strong efforts to make this country a leader in the world’s fight against climate change.

FAO says that to date, 188 countries have submitted INDCs to the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, the formal name of the organization that facilitated the multinational agreement reached in Paris last December to work together and curb rising temperatures that are contributing to extreme drought, extensive flooding and other volatile weather patterns across the globe.

The INDCs aim to guide country-level climate action for the coming years, including not only targets, but also concrete strategies for addressing the causes and responding to the consequences of climate change. FAO analyzed the INDCs to assess the role of the agriculture sectors (crops, livestock, fisheries and aquaculture, as well as forestry) in meeting national mitigation and adaptation goals. Not surprisingly, the results show that in all regions, the agriculture sectors are central to the response to climate change and to accomplishing the goals and actions needed to attain the emission reductions by 2030 called for in the Paris agreement.

Ninety-eight percent of all countries refer to energy as a sector the can be targeted for mitigating climate change. Many countries intend to substitute fossil fuels with cleaner energy sources and renewable energy, a transition that has important implications for the agriculture sectors. In fact, more than 60 countries specifically recognize the advantages of biofuels- by including them in their carbon-emission reduction plans. That means the biofuels industry will have a significant role to play in international efforts to transition away from carbon-intensive fossil fuels in the transport sector.

In a statement issued last week, the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA) called on parties to the Paris agreement to take immediate action to significantly reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector by incorporating increased biofuels blending as part of their national plans. The alliance notes that the transportation sector produces an estimated 25-30 percent of the world’s GHG emissions, and that low-carbon transport fuel alternatives to crude oil like ethanol are a cost-effective and immediately available option for countries to adopt.

On another front, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) recently issued “Achieving the United States’ Intended Nationally Determined Contribution.” The group notes in its analysis that more than 180 nations representing more than 95 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions offered INDCs, including the United States’ economy-wide target to reduce net GHG emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. C2ES says the U.S. could reduce emissions by as much as 22 percent with policies either already in place or soon anticipated.

Transportation-related emissions, which account for 27 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions, have steadily trended downward since adoption of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), and current levels are 10 percent below 2005 levels. EPA cites “using renewable fuels such as low-carbon biofuels” as an important factor in reduced GHG emissions from the transportation sector, while DOE says that “increased consumption of biofuels” is a key reason why transportation-related GHG emissions are falling faster than vehicle miles traveled.

Yet this administration has slowed the rate of biofuel development in this country by adopting RFS biofuel blending levels far below the sector’s capability.

The 25x’25 Alliance is encouraged by the multinational support for strong action, including renewable energy development, to address climate change. But if the United States is to have any hope of meeting its ambitious targets, substantial action is needed soon. Putting a greater emphasis on the production of biofuels and the emission reductions they represent would be a significant step that this country – and other nations‑ can take now.

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