The Global Biofuels Alliance: Well Begun is Half Done

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiative of the Global Biofuel Alliance is a great step towards mitigating climate change. It may also further India’s push for becoming carbon neutral nation, and also solve its growing energy needs    

India’s G20 presidency was a watershed moment for the nation and its global diplomacy. India was not just able to bring two warring blocks, viz. Russia-China and US-Europe on the table, but also it managed to eke out a joint statement from the stakeholders. India also did not let this occasion slip into the din of opinions attempting to call it a non-event, conspicuous by the absence of China’s premier Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The event was noticed by the world at large with an overwhelming view that G20 summit in India raised the bar by several notches and Brazil, which has taken the rotating annual presidency from India, will live up to the expectation coming year.

Apart from the joint statement, the other biggest takeaways from the summit were the announcement of an economic corridor (India-Middle East-Europe Corridor) and the Global Biofuels Alliance (GBA) by India. The economic corridor announced by the leaders of the US, India and Saudi Arabia is to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The BRI is a mammoth infrastructure project envisioned by China to stamp its economic leadership through a vast network of road, rail and maritime networks. But before we talk about it in some detail, let us know what biofuel alliance aims to achieve and the enormity of its significance.

On September 9, Prime Minister Modi launched the Global Biofuels Alliance (GBA) taking along heads of the remaining 19 countries and international organisations. It was first proposed in February at the India Energy Week. It is being sees as another step to bring down global carbon emissions and contain the global warming to 1.5 Celsius, a step necessary to avoid the catastrophic impacts of climate change.

India’s energy requirements are humongous but its per capita consumption is nowhere near that of the US, China and most of the developed and industrialised world. Despite this, India has committed itself to become carbon neutral in the next five decades. It is by no means a small resolution for the world’s most populous country. India recently surpassed China in population.  

The GBA is an initiative to build a consortium of governments of the world, international organisations and the business fraternity to facilitate the adoption of biofuels. Biofuels will be developed from organic and agricultural waste which will drive the energy needs of the world. It will also put agricultural and organic waste to work, hitting two birds with one stone.

The initiative has been warmly received by at least 19 countries and 12 international organisations while the scope of their ambit is not limited just to this. The countries which have joined the GBA are India, US, Canada, Italy Brazil, South Africa and Argentina in the G20 pack. Among the non-G20 nations, Bangladesh, Singapore and Iceland have also agreed to become a part of the alliance.

International organisations such as the World Economic Forum, World Bank and the International Energy Agency (IEA) have also joined.

According to media reports, India, US and Brazil account for 85 per cent of the world’s biofuel production. The US is the leader with 52 per cent contribution to the break-up, followed by Brazil and India which account for 30 per cent and 3 per cent, respectively.

The objective of the GBA is to facilitate propagation and use of biofuels by creating an enabling environment for people and the industry. Under the plan, the alliance governments will be creating infrastructure and marketplace for the industry and the consumer. Since this will involve multiple governments, there is less likelihood of bureaucratic delays and feet dragging. The participation of industry will help in adoption of the best technologies which may not be limited to specific nations of geographies. Knowledge and energy hubs are expected to be created to facilitate smooth functioning.

From the Indian standpoint, it is a leap towards adoption of clean energy. The country is already working on multiple areas to increase its green footprints. The proliferation of electric vehicles, ethanol blending targets of 20 per cent by 2025, setting up plants for production of green hydrogen and push towards renewable energy point to country’s focus in that direction.

A MoneyControl report claimed that Reliance Industries planned to establish 100 CBG plants in the next five years consuming 5.5 million tonnes of agro-residue and organic waste. It is already India’s largest bio-energy producer.  

The Global Biofuels Alliance (GBA) will also create income opportunities for the farmers by allowing them to sell their agricultural waste. It is also another step towards ensuring India’s energy security.

The global climate changes are become more extreme by the any with erratic monsoon and regular cyclones along with long and excruciating summers. In order to ward of the dangers of the extreme weather events and climate change, an annual global investment of nearly USD 3 trillion is required according to estimates to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. This is more than 150 per cent increase in the current investment of USD 1.9 trillion per year needed to decarbonize the energy sector.

Economic Corridor

The economic corridor which will be created to link South Asia to Saudia Arabia and eventually to Europe could be an important facilitator for the GBA to fire on all cylinders. It could be a nervous system linking energy exchanges between the countries through which the economic corridor passes. It may be more than an economic corridor and serve strategic interests of the nations as well.

The economic corridor will link countries through roads, rails and ports.

The GBA and the economic corridor is a gigantic exercise with a very long gestation period and will take years to complete. It will also be a test of the diplomacy among the nations who have agreed to participate in the alliance as the ruling governments who have agreed on it may not sustain the course of the development or implantations of the projects. The priorities could change depending upon the situations, so it is just the beginning. But as the saying goes, a work well begun is half done.

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