At COP28, agribusiness representatives highlight the fact that Latin American biofuels are making a useful, direct contribution to the global efforts to combat climate change
Dubai, United Arab Emirates, December 5, 2023 (IICA). Liquid biofuels are a tool that is already available in Latin American countries that the region can harness to make a very valuable contribution to the efforts to tackle climate change, according to agribusiness representatives who are taking part in COP28, the environmental negotiation forum being held in the United Arab Emirates that is attracting global attention.
The issue was debated during a panel discussion that took place at the House of Sustainable Agriculture of the Americas, the pavilion that the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and its Member States have installed at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change. This year’s event, which is being held in the city of Dubai, has attracted more than 70,000 participants, including world political and climate leaders, and representatives of the private sector, NGOs and social and youth organizations.
Participating in the event at the IICA pavilion were Evandro Gussi, President of Brazil’s UNICA (Union of the Sugarcane and Bioenergy Industry); Carolina Rojas Hayes, President of Colombia’s FedeBiocombustibles (National Biofuels Federation); Gustavo Idígoras, President of CIARA-CEC (Chamber of the Oil Industry of the Argentine Republic-Cereal Exporters Center); and Julio Minelli, President of APROBIO (Association of Brazilian Biofuel Producers).
The event was moderated by Flávio Castellari, President of Brazil’s Local Alcohol Producers Association (APLA).
The speakers were agreed that, given Latin America’s huge sustainable agricultural production and high level of agroindustrial development, the region’s biofuels are a much more effective resource than electromobility for achieving the objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector.
In recent years, it has been demonstrated that biofuels make it possible to transition towards a cleaner energy matrix and contribute to the global decarbonization goals that the international community assumed under the Paris Agreement. They are a key contribution that is available right now for Latin America and for the entire Global South.
“We have to abandon the myths and stick to the facts. Realistically speaking, sustainable mobility depends on two factors, which are the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions per vehicle and the carbon intensity of energy. And biofuels are very efficient in the latter regard. For example, bioethanol from sugarcane reduces gasoline emissions by up to 90%,” Gussi said.
The President of UNICA mentioned that in Brazil the sector had set itself the target of achieving a negative emission factor within a few years. “We’ll achieve this by means of higher productivity. Today we produce 70 tons of sugarcane per hectare, but the figure is set to rise to 100,” explained the representative of Brazil’s agribusiness sector, who praised IICA for its role in promoting the development of sustainable agribusiness in the Americas for the benefit of the whole world.
Carolina Rojas noted that large-scale biofuel production in Colombia began nearly 20 years ago, and local regulations now require that fossil fuels be mixed with 7% bioethanol from sugarcane and 10% biodiesel from palm oil.
“So we Colombians are contributing to climate change mitigation. Biodiesel reduces diesel emissions by 84%, and bioethanol reduces gasoline emissions by 73%. We’re talking about three million tons of CO2 having been removed from the atmosphere with the way fuel is consumed today in Colombia. It’s as if there were one million fewer vehicles on the roads, in a country with a total of six million vehicles,” Rojas explained.
“Biofuels also generate other benefits, as they improve air quality, create agribusiness jobs and contribute to energy sovereignty. Colombia aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030, and biofuels can contribute 15% of that reduction if mandatory and voluntary fuel mixture ratios are increased,” she added.
Working with the private sector, IICA coordinated the creation of the Pan American Liquid Biofuels Coalition (CPBIO), made up of the main business and industry associations of the Americas engaged in the production and processing of sugar, alcohol, corn, sorghum, soybeans, vegetable oil, cereals, and other agricultural products.
The main objectives of this new regional entity include coordinating the sustainable development, promotion and consumption of these clean energies in the hemisphere.
The group was created during the Pan American Liquid Biofuels Summit, which IICA organized and hosted in San José. IICA operates the coalition’s Technical Secretariat.
A solution for decarbonization
Julio Minelli stressed that biofuels are a decarbonization solution that is already available, since they do not call for new infrastructure, only an increase in the ratio with which they are mixed with fossil fuels.
“In 2008, the mixture for biodiesel in Brazil was set at two percent. Today the figure is 13% and the aim is to reach 15% in 2026, although the ratio could be increased to up to 25%. In the last 15 years, biofuels reduced emissions by an amount equivalent to the planting of one billion trees. We say that it’s as if we’d reforested the entire surface of the Brazilian states of Alagoas and Sergipe [in the country’s Northeast region],” Minelli pointed out.
Idígoras gave details of the industry in Argentina. The country has invested heavily in the subsector over the last 20 years, and the main focus today is the production of soybean biodiesel, both for domestic consumption and for export.
“Our installed production capacity is 3.9 million tons, but only 1.9 million tons are being produced annually due to regulatory issues, which is why we have two million tons of idle production capacity,” he said.
Idígoras emphasized that the soybean with which biodiesel is manufactured in Argentina is produced sustainably, since 97% is grown using the direct seeding method, whose advantages include a reduction in the use of agrochemicals and less soil erosion.
He concluded his remarks by saying, “We are in a position to continue growing, with a huge agroindustrial capacity that is not being used and would allow us to make an even bigger contribution to the reduction of climate change. The energy transition in our countries should not be based so much on electromobility, which calls for high levels of investment, but on the natural resources we have today that are readily available.”
Institutional Communication Division.