COP24 brings new bioeconomy strategy from UK, $200B from World Bank and more

December 9, 2018 |

Amid rumors of President Trump’s coal and fossil-fuel side event at COP24 (the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) in Poland this week and a Swedish 15 year old climate activist who tells it like it is, all hope for biofuels and bioenergy is not lost with several positive announcements coming out of the meetings. The United Kingdom and World Bank in particular have some exciting news.

But first, why is it such a big meeting anyway? It marks the third anniversary since the Paris Agreement was reached in 2015 at COP21, which means it is the deadline agreed to by signatories to adopt a “work program for the implementation” or rulebook of what they promised to do back in 2015.

What is a bioeconomy?

Back to the big announcements…First, the UK defined what a bioeconomy is, which is in and of itself a challenge, and said, “The bioeconomy represents the economic potential of harnessing the power of bioscience, using renewable biological resources to replace fossil resources in innovative products, processes and services. This means that quantifying precisely the size and contribution the bioeconomy makes to the UK economy, both in terms of its direct and indirect impacts, involves a degree of uncertainty.”

Ok, we don’t like uncertainty, but here is something certain. Overall, their reports estimate the impact of activities in the bioeconomy at around £220 billion (about $280 billion). Pretty impressive numbers but what does that really mean?

Avail yourself of the opportunities

It means that “If the UK is able to seize the opportunities available, and overcome barriers that have limited the commercialisation of successful research in the past, then this should have a direct impact on UK exports of bioeconomy goods and services, and make the UK a more attractive place for overseas investment in bio-resources. In turn, these should have a positive impact in terms of improving the productivity of the UK economy, and increasing prosperity.”

More prosperity for the UK means more prosperity for others too, like Virgin Atlantic and Illinois-based LanzaTech and their carbon utilization technology. Virgin Atlantic’s Emma Harvey told The Digest, “We hope that the UK’s new bioeconomy strategy launched last week could be just the vehicle to help us secure the world’s first, full-scale jet fuel plant using LanzaTech’s groundbreaking carbon and utilisation (CCU) technology right here in the UK.”

According to the UK government’s analysis:

  • The global biorefineries market is set to grow from around £350bn (about $445 billion) to £550bn (a whooping $700 billion) by 2021.
  • The annual turnover of the UK industrial biotechnology and bioenergy sectors was £2.9bn ($3.6 billion) in 2013/14 and was forecast to increase to £8.6bn (nearly $11 billion) by 2035.
  • The global market for bioplastics is expected to grow from £13bn (over $16 billion) in 2017 to over £33bn (about $42 billion) by 2022.
  • The global market for agricultural biotechnology is set to grow from £22bn (about $28 billion) in 2016 to £40bn (nearly $51 billion) by 2022.

The Bioeconomy Strategy outlines why, left to its own devices, the market may not direct the optimal level of resources into the bioeconomy. Thus, the government’s role will be to help deliver what they call “Clean Growth Strategy.” They plan on doing this by helping with coordination failures – in other words, government coming in and helping bring diverse actors together to facilitate more effective outcomes and help balance the benefits of intellectual property protection.

One case study they refer to as how the bioeconomy can help solve our challenges is Advanced Plasma Power’s gasification technology. Their £27m (about $34 million) facility, which is close to completion, will convert 10,000 tons of household waste per annum into 1,500 tons of renewable transport fuel. The world-first plant was made possible by an £11m (about $14 million) grant from the Department for Transport’s Advanced Biofuel Demonstration Competition.

Follow the money and make a difference

Everything costs money, as is quite apparent during the holiday season especially as you look for special gifts for special people, and the World Bank made a major announcement at COP24 that they will invest $200 billion over five years for countries to take climate action to meet their 2021-2025 climate targets. This is double their current five-year investments.

“Climate change is an existential threat to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. These new targets demonstrate how seriously we are taking this issue, investing and mobilizing $200 billion over five years to combat climate change,” World Bank Group President, Jim Yong Kim said. “We are pushing ourselves to do more and to go faster on climate and we call on the global community to do the same. This is about putting countries and communities in charge of building a safer, more climate-resilient future.”

The $200 billion across the Group is made up of approximately $100 billion in direct finance from the World Bank (IBRD/IDA), and approximately $100 billion of combined direct finance from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) and private capital mobilized by the World Bank Group.

A key priority is boosting support for climate adaptation, recognizing that millions of people across the world are already facing the severe consequences of more extreme weather events, according to their press release. By ramping up direct adaptation finance to reach around $50 billion over FY21-25, the World Bank will, for the first time, give this equal emphasis alongside investments that reduce emissions.

“People are losing their lives and livelihoods because of the disastrous effects of climate change. We must fight the causes, but also adapt to the consequences that are often most dramatic for the world’s poorest people,” said World Bank Chief Executive Officer, Kristalina Georgieva. “This is why we at the World Bank commit to step up climate finance to $100 billion, half of which will go to build better adapted homes, schools and infrastructure, and invest in climate smart agriculture, sustainable water management and responsive social safety nets.”

There are literally trillions of dollars of opportunities for the private sector to invest in projects that will help save the planet,” said IFC CEO Philippe Le Houérou. “Our job is to go out and proactively find those opportunities, use our de-risking tools, and crowd in private sector investment. We will do much more in helping finance renewable energy, green buildings, climate-smart agribusiness, urban transportation, water, and urban waste management.”

This is huge for the bioeconomy which is ripe for the picking in helping the World Bank achieve targets.

Bottom Line

While the UK announced a concrete plan and the World Bank committed some cash, there is promise from Canada and other countries as well. Private sector announcements show promise too, like Sweden-based NextFuel unveiling what they call the world’s first carbon negative fuel, made from elephant grass, at COP24. The conference began December 2 and runs until December 14 so we expect more announcements and news to be coming out of the talks. It’s no accident that the event was hosted in a coal region, but that doesn’t stop us from being hopeful about the future of biofuels and biomaterials. There is commitment, money, and innovation to move it forward.

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