Global Sustainable Bioenergy

Final Resolution - North American Convention

Access to energy services is critical to the quality of human life. Our existing energy portfolio is both unsustainable and threatened in many ways. Large scale bioenergy, along with other renewable energy sources, is imperative to support a sustainable future in North America. Our diverse and abundant resources are more than adequate, but they require more holistic management and innovative technologies. With immediate and ongoing action, it is reasonable for North America to set a goal of producing 25% of our energy services from these bioenergy resources by 2050, and even greater contributions in the future. To meet these goals, strategies must be put in place now so that we can begin accruing the necessary benefits at once and prepare effectively for the future. North America’s diversity in geography, resource distribution, cultural history and political structures enables all regions to contribute to a sustainable energy future. Sustainability, comprised of social, economic and environmental sustainability, means managing and using resources to meet current and future needs without compromising the ability of future landscapes to support all three aspects. Sustainable bioenergy development, abiding by these principles, can contribute to the longevity and resilience of natural resources, and the productivity of future generations in North America and globally.

Almost all energy in North America is currently generated from finite fossil resources. To move to a more sustainable future, use of non-renewable resources must be strategic and limited to activities without other options. Fortunately, energy may be generated by a suite of alternatives, including conversion of biomass, and drivers in both Canada and the US have increasingly advanced the development of bioenergy, primarily for transportation fuels, but on a smaller scale for heat and power. Bioenergy has the potential to provide low carbon energy in sustainable agricultural and forest landscapes, along with social and economic benefits; the magnitude of the opportunity is substantial. The continent enjoys abundant forest and agricultural resources, ample access to corollary resources such as water, fertilizer feedstocks and mineral resources, as well as a highly educated and skilled work force, and good trade relationships between Canada and the US. A mature research base and infrastructure will facilitate the necessary innovation. The continent is generally well-positioned for large scale bioenergy production, but even smaller scale bioenergy use could enhance energy security and environmental integrity.

Developing and deploying large scale sustainable bioenergy as part of a viable renewable energy mix requires addressing challenges in four key areas: resources, policy, technology, and implementation.

Resources. The continent is vast, with a huge variability in the distribution of resources. Integration of regionally appropriate strategies must be used to support the continental goal.

  • Account for regional variability in physical, cultural and political landscapes and approaches in achieving bioenergy sustainability;
  • Immediately improve the performance and resource efficiency of current bioenergy systems;
  • Optimize resource use and land management to increase bioenergy production while still meeting growing food, feed, and fibre needs and protecting the ability to provide valuable ecosystem services.

Policy. The policy matrix is complex, involving various levels of authority across multiple disciplines. Ultimately, federal policies should incentivize the desired outcomes, while supporting and facilitating regional strategies. Increasing collaboration among the policy, science, and industrial communities will promote creation of evidence-based policy and regulation that support effective new structures and technologies.Current policies understandably favour the status quo, but must be reoriented to support emerging sustainable bioenergy systems as well as traditional sectors. Similarly, traditionally segregated sectors must be increasingly integrated in order to address future challenges using shared physical and human resources.

  • In the short term, modify existing or develop new policies and legislation to appropriately use current bioenergy capacity, including harmonization of regulation and removal of barriers across federal, state/provincial and regional governments;
  • Align trade policy among countries through market, process and organizational innovation;
  • Include multi-level government, scientist, industry and public participation in federal policy development;
  • Create a robust environment for private and public investment by providing accurate analysis metrics and developing risk-buffering strategies;
  • Incentivize complementary bioenergy integration with other landscape and ecosystem services.

Technology. Enabling truly sustainable large-scale bioenergy requires major technological innovations supported by research institutions, government, industry and other stakeholders.

  • Utilize existing technologies to enhance sustainability of all current and emerging bioenergy systems;
  • Continue to advance development of bioenergy production, harvesting, densification, logistics, conversion and use technologies;
  • Improve communications surrounding science and technology policy among industrial, science, and policy communities;
  • Strongly incentivize sustainable bioenergy systems by rewarding early adopters of advanced technologies.

Implementation Strategy. Sustainability is both a process and a goal, and is responsive to the unique characteristics of individual regions and circumstances. Currently, assessments of the sustainability and the desirability of bioenergy are widely divergent.  Research and communication can bridge this gap and pave the way for sustainable implementation of bioenergy on a large scale.

  • Generate and provide validated quantitative data to better guide policy development and business case development;
  • Expand education and outreach to
    • Increase public awareness and understanding;
    • Engage full range of stakeholders;
    • Revitalize and enhance agriculture and forestry extension;
    • Train sufficient highly qualified personnel for all aspects of development, deployment, and assessment.
  • Create holistic demonstrations to test the integration of social and physical systems;
  • Measure, monitor, and verify to demonstrate that bioenergy implementations are sustainable. 

North America has benefited greatly from its endowment of fossil energy resources.  We have both the capacity and the obligation to participate vigorously in the global transition toward a prosperous and sustainable future involving large scale bioenergy.

 

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To view previous continental resolutions, please visit the Global Sustainable Bioenergy Project’s continental convention schedule.