Biomass energy: optimising its contribution to poverty reduction and ecosystem services

Project
Archived
July 2010 to December 2011

Biomass energy makes up 77 per cent of the world’s renewable energy - or 10 per cent of the world’s total energy mix (3 per cent in OECD and 22 per cent in non-OECD countries). As a major and increasing component of land use, biomass energy systems therefore have significant impacts on both ecosystem services and poverty.  

In the North, emerging opportunities for energy security through biomass are being developed fast. In the South, biomass energy is often viewed as 'inefficient and non-commercial', 'a health hazard', 'a cause of deforestation' or 'a poverty trap', often legislated to be 'illegal' as a result. The International Energy Agency predicts that the share of biomass energy will treble from 10 per cent to 30 per cent of the global total by 2050 – with increases in both North and South. In order for increasing biomass energy use to have positive impacts on poverty reduction and ecosystem services, innovative interdisciplinary research is needed to map out transition pathways that optimize these impacts.

Background

This project aims to develop, through its six objectives, a North-South-South partnership and project to reshape the impact of a predicted large-scale expansion in global biomass energy use towards greater poverty reduction and maintenance of ecosystem services in developing countries. The consortium of partners represents leading biomass energy researchers from multiple disciplines.

Together, a conceptual framework on biomass energy will be designed with clear indicators for 'reshaping' impacts on poverty reduction and ecosystem services. For example, in assessing the impact of future biomass energy use we will explore multi-disciplinary indicators and supply and demand factors: resource carrying capacities, demand by most needy for energy, security in access and supply, impact on food security, impact on land and resource rights, decency of work in its provision, broader social contributions, impact on ecosystem services (carbon, biodiversity and resilience, watersheds, landscape beauty) and enhancement of cultural identity. At a planning meeting, this framework and evidence of technological and economic projections for biomass energy will be discussed.

Project objectives

This proposal targets ESPA's forest theme, where the expected outcome is "enhanced contribution of forest ecosystem services to poor people's livelihoods and sustainable growth processes in the context of environmental and climate change".

The overarching objective of this proposal is to develop a world class interdisciplinary South-South-North research partnership and strategy that reshapes the impact of a predicted large-scale expansion in global biomass energy use towards greater poverty reduction and maintenance of ecosystem services in developing countries. In order of priority the subsidiary objectives are as follows:

  1. develop a relevant conceptual framework - by organizing a South-South-North participatory planning meeting
  2. establish sound natural resource, technological and economic projections in India, Kenya and Malawi as a baseline for promoting improved biomass impact
  3. develop research plans, analysis tools and procedures,
  4. identify in partner countries specific political change agents, communications strategies and impact plans,
  5. evaluate innovative business and value chain models to test transition options towards increase biomass energy use,
  6. develop a full ESPA proposal with a strategy to fill knowledge and capacity gaps - by working together in an equitable North-South-South partnership.

Additional resources

Bundles of Energy: the case for renewable biomass energy (2011) 

An exciting new report from Sibel Korhaliller and Duncan Macqueen, showing that if nations manage their forests and ensure replanting happens in a way that is sensitive to food security needs, biomass can be a renewable and sustainable source of energy.

Bearings for the biomass boom (March 2011)
A sustainable development opinion paper from Duncan Macqueen, calling for a more sophisticated approach to biomass energy.

Background reports

These reports form part of this project aiming to develop a South-South-North partnership to reshape the impact of a predicted large-scale expansion in global biomass energy use towards greater poverty reduction and maintenance of ecosystem services in developing countries.

IIED (2010) Biomass energy – optimising its contribution to poverty reduction and ecosystem services: report of an international workshop, 19-21 October 2010, Parliament House Hotel, Edinburgh. IIED, London, UK.

Kambewa, P. and Chiwaula, L. (2010) Biomass energy use in Malawi. A background paper prepared for the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) for an international ESPA workshop on biomass energy, 19-21 October 2010, Parliament House Hotel, Edinburgh. Chancellor College, Zomba, Malawi.

Mugo, F. and Gathui, T. (2010) Biomass energy use in Kenya. A background paper prepared for the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) for an international ESPA workshop on biomass energy, 19-21 October 2010, Parliament House Hotel, Edinburgh. Practical Action, Nairobi, Kenya.

Black, M. and Richter, G.M. (2010) Mapping out global biomass projections, technological developments and policy innovations. A background paper prepared for the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) for an international ESPA workshop on biomass energy, 19-21 October 2010, Parliament House Hotel, Edinburgh.

TERI (2010) Bioenergy in India. A background paper prepared for the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) for an international ESPA workshop on biomass energy, 19-21 October 2010, Parliament House Hotel, Edinburgh. TERI, New Dehli, India

Donors

Ecosystem Services and Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) programme of DFID, NERC and ESRC

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