UN Regional Forum to Explore Bioenergy Development

Meeting in Bangkok 23-25 January 2008

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) will co-host a regional forum on bioenergy sector development in Bangkok this week.

The forum, jointly organised by the Asian and Pacific Centre for Agricultural Engineering and Machinery (UN-APCAEM) of ESCAP and the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives of Thailand, will take place from 23 to 25 January at the Maruay Garden Hotel in Chatuchak.

The forum aims to address issues including the current status of bioenergy development in Asia and the Pacific; balancing its potential benefits with the risks associated with environmental degradation and food security; emerging bioenergy technologies; financing bioenergy projects and recommendations on viable policy options for bioenergy development.

Energy from biomass—mostly in the form of wood and agricultural waste burned for cooking and heat— is the source of about a third of energy in developing countries. Modern biofuels, which can be used to produce electricity, gas and transportation fuels, have seen their production increased sharply since 2000.

However, the growing popularity of biofuels also has its drawbacks. Policy-makers have to consider the impact on food security, as arable land is increasingly used for energy production. There area also environmental concerns. More environmentally sustainable use of biofuels could include the use of crops grown specifically for bioenergy generation, instead of the use of food crops.

“As countries improve their energy security through adoption of biofuels, they should work to ensure the participation of poor people and small farmers in the creation of a more sustainable energy system”, says Joong-wan Cho, who heads UN-APCAEM. “With sound technology and trade policies, it is possible to create win-win solutions through the use of bioenergy.”

Innovative instruments such as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which allows developed countries to meet their greenhouse gas emissions targets by investing in low-emissions technologies in developing countries, could be used to ensure future investments in biofuels, says Mr. Cho. Policy-makers working on agro-industry and bioenergy from Asia-Pacific countries, along with UN experts, and representatives from the private sector will participate in this Forum.