Can the forest biomass boom be made sustainable?

News, 3 May 2011

IIED is supporting the 2nd Annual Forestry, Biomass & Sustainability conference, which will explore the changing role of forestry in the search for greener economies that reduce carbon emissions.

The conference (in London on 12-13 May) will focus on developments in policy, economics and financing of biomass projects, and identify new investment opportunities and risks in these rapidly growing markets.

Forestry has been traditionally viewed as a timber industry, but is undergoing a seismic shift as people wake up to its role as the major player in the renewable energy sector.

A recent IIED report Bundles of energy: The case for renewable biomass energy notes that developed nations are investing heavily in biomass, but developing nations risk being left behind.

It urges them to take advantage of their dependence on biomass fuels — such as wood and charcoal — and move towards green economies in which the poor benefit from producing sustainable, clean energy.

Duncan Macqueen, co-author of the report and leader of IIED's Forest Team, will explore in the conference the potential impacts of the booming biomass sector on deforestation, food security and biodiversity conservation.

"Nations need to adopt a more sophisticated approach to biomass energy," says Macqueen. "This means creating incentives for local people to manage or restore tree cover either in natural forests, plantations or on farms in a way that is sensitive to food security needs."

"It also means tackling the inefficient conversion of biomass, which wastes wood and creates health hazards such as indoor air pollution," he adds. "And it means encouraging research and investment in appropriate scales of new biomass technology such as gasifiers for electricity generation."

This promises to be an important year for the forestry sector internationally, and particularly for forestry finance initiatives.

The UN has declared 2011 to be the International Year of Forests and the recent UN Climate Change conference in Cancun has given the green light to efforts to avoid deforestation. How parties treat biomass energy will be decisive in shaping a successful outcome.

For more information visit:, or email:

Download the report Bundles of energy: The case for renewable biomass energy

Download the accompanying opinion paper by Duncan Macqueen


Mike Shanahan
Press officer
International Institute for Environment and Development
3 Endsleigh Street
London WC1H 0DD
Tel: 44 (0) 207 388 2117
Fax: 44 (0) 207 388 2826

Notes to editors

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) is an independent, non-profit research institute. Set up in 1971 and based in London, IIED provides expertise and leadership in researching and achieving sustainable development (see:

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