By Erin Voegele, BioMass Magazine
November 4, 2016
On Nov. 4, the Paris Agreement on climate change entered legal force. It requires 195 nations, including the U.S., to take collective action to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and limit global temperature increases to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Leading up to the Paris Agreement, countries submitted individual plans, called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, on how they planned to meet the GHG reduction targets. The Renewable Fuels Association pointed out that at least 37 countries included biofuels in these plans. The U.S., however, did not.
“It’s frankly inexplicable that the U.S. has ignored the RFS in its INDC,” said Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the RFA. “The U.S. actually has one of the most successful and progressive fuels policies reducing carbon emissions from transportation fuels today—the renewable fuels standard (RFS)—that requires refiners to use an increasing percentage of renewable fuels through 2022. Even greater carbon benefits will be realized as more advanced cellulosic ethanol fuels are commercialized.”
In a statement, the RFA noted that carbon emissions from transportation now exceed those from power generation, and any successful carbon program will need to address increasing carbon emissions from oil extraction, refining and combustion. According to the RFA, biofuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel, can help do that.
“With ethanol a proven weapon in the U.S.’ arsenal to help combat global climate change, our nation should continue to support biofuels and the RFS. The U.S. could take a good first step by finalizing a strong 2017 RVO that calls for a conventional biofuel target at its statutory requirement of 15 billion gallons,” said Dinneen. “That will send a signal that the U.S. is serious about its Paris Agreement obligation and committed to the growth and evolution of the U.S. biofuels industry.
“In a few days, COP22 will convene to begin discussing implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement,” Dinneen continued. “The U.S. should take a leadership role there, and encourage other nations around the globe to aggressively pursue biofuels policies like the RFS that will provide near-term and significant carbon savings.”
Bliss Baker, president of the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance, called the Paris Agreement historic, noting it includes many of the world’s largest economies, covering the majority of global carbon emissions.
According to the GRFA, the transportation section represents an estimated 25-30 percent of global emissions, and currently has the lowest renewable energy share of any sector. The GRFA stressed that the use of ethanol as a carbon offsetting transport fuel alternative is a cost-effective and immediately-available option for reducing transportation emissions. In 2014, global ethanol production and use reduced GHG emissions by an estimated 169 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent.
“The implementation of the Paris Agreement today comes just three days before the start of COP22 when global leaders will next have the opportunity to discuss policy options to curb emissions.” Baker noted. “The GRFA encourages government leaders to strengthen their national climate plans submitted at COP21 to take advantage of opportunities to increase the use of biofuels in the transport sector.” he added.
The Business Council for Sustainable Energy has also spoken out on the Paris Agreement’s official entry into force. Lisa Jacobson, president of the BCSE, said the agreement marks a new era of climate action and signals a wholesale transformation of the energy sector.
"An essential building block of this energy transformation is the utilization of a diverse portfolio of existing clean energy technologies and resources,” Jacobson said. “This portfolio includes carbon capture utilization and storage; demand-side and supply-side energy efficiency in buildings, utilities and transportation; energy storage; grid modernization; natural gas; and renewable energy resources (biomass, biogas, geothermal, hydropower, solar, waste-to-energy and wind).”
"By shifting towards a diversified, clean energy portfolio, countries will gain not only emissions reduction benefits, but also increased resilience, energy security and health benefits as well,” Jacobson added. "The Council applauds the political leadership which delivered the Paris Agreement's early entry into legal force. BCSE's clean energy coalition looks forward to working with national leaders to help further develop and implement countries' nationally determined contributions and to help them meet their mitigation and adaptation goals."