Towards an IUCN strategy for sustainable bioenergy

“By 2016, bioenergy responsibly contributes to biodiversity conservation, climate change solutions and sustainable livelihoods, as part of building resilient ecological and socio-economic systems.” This is IUCN’s working vision for sustainable bioenergy, an outcome of a recent workshop that convened Members, partners, Commissions and IUCN staff to develop an IUCN bioenergy strategy.*

Woman collecting firewood, Puttalam, Sri Lanka

Over the last five years, IUCN has built up a programme of work primarily around biofuel policies and standards setting, guided by resolutions 4.082 Sustainable biomass-based energy and 4.083 Industrial agrofuel production. IUCN’s experience with local biomass-based energy systems have an even longer history, in relation to forest landscape management and conservation. Building on existing experience and expertise in IUCN’s networks is critically important in the process of developing a strategy for future engagement.

The energy team in IUCN convened a group of IUCN colleagues and partners to guide the future direction of IUCN’s work on biomass-based energy systems – from global markets for liquid transport fuels to local production and consumption of biomass for heating and cooking. They included:

  • IUCN regional and national offices, (Europe and Mozambique, with inputs received from South America and West and Central Africa regional offices)
  • IUCN global thematic programmes
  • IUCN Commissions (CEL, CEESP)
  • Members (Conservation International, IUCN National Committee of the Netherlands, Wetlands International, WWF)
  • Partners (HCV Network, Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels, Shell, United Nations Environment Programme, Universidade de Evora)

The workshop agenda consisted of three parts: 1) an internal reflection of IUCN’s bioenergy work and linkages across IUCN, 2) an assessment of bioenergy strategies and learning edges from our external partners as well as the value proposition that IUCN provides, and 3) an internal discussion on the elements of a bioenergy strategy, including a working vision statement.

I greatly appreciated being part of this process. As both a commission member (CEESP) and part of a member NGO, I found the discussions very helpful for understanding the perspectives of others and what they are doing. Having staff from different sections of IUCN made it possible for us to come up with realistic ideas of what else they might do”, said Doris Cellarius, from the Sierra Club.

Future work should have more emphasis on reaching out to the regional and national offices and Members working on bioenergy projects, to make local to global connections. External partners identified the important role IUCN can play in facilitating the use of effective land use planning tools, and communicating examples of bioenergy projects from across the Union that are contributing positively to environmental and social dimensions.

As Christine Dragisic, from member organisation Conservation International, noted, “It’s impressive the way that IUCN has worked with so many other partners on biofuels. Their support in this area, for example, convening a session on biofuels and biodiversity at the recent CBD COP10 in Nagoya, is much appreciated”.

The energy team will be building the advice and insights from the workshop into a strategy for IUCN’s work on bioenergy in the short to medium term, as well as reaching out to other groups in IUCN for comment. Elements of the strategy will include:

  • expanding our knowledge base and experience in managing bioenergy systems sustainably, building on case studies and examples from the field;
  • using science-based evidence to inform issues such as land use change, invasive species, water use;
  • deepening the understanding across our networks about the implications of different bioenergy pathways in terms of possible outcomes for biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions, watersheds, livelihoods and equitable energy access.

Members, Commission members and colleagues who are active in the area of bioenergy and have potential case studies to contribute, or general feedback, are encouraged to contact IUCN’s programme officer on bioenergy,

* Original article dated 26 November 2010. Revised to include final workshop report on 18 February 2011.

Work area: 
Global Policy
Protected Areas
Social Policy
Protected Areas
Social Policy
Environmental Law
World Heritage
South America
North America
East and Southern Africa
West and Central Africa
West Asia
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