This week below50 partnered with the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) to advance the case for below50 fuels during the BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology (#BIOWC17) in Montreal, Canada, where industry leaders, government officials and academic researchers met to share the latest advances across the spectrum of industrial biotechnology including renewable chemicals, synthetic biology, food ingredients and advanced biofuels.
Last Monday night, BIO hosted a reception to introduce below50 to the broader biotechnology community and announce that BIO will be hosting the below50 North America Regional Hub. In their opening remarks, Gerard Ostheimer, Senior Advisor, below50, and Stephanie Batchelor, Director of State and International Policy, BIO, announced the development of the below50 North America hub. Ostheimer pointed out that below50 seeks to connect the entire below50 fuel value chain, from investors to feedstock and fuel producers to corporate fuel users. Stephanie Batchelor highlighted the complementarity between WBCSD and BIO to foster increased use of below50 fuels.
This plenary was followed by the below50 workshop that was the first public activity of the below50 North America hub and featured Larissa Rose, Managing Director, Queensland Renewable Fuels Association Inc., Hans van der Sluijs, Business Director, North America, DSM-Poet and Michael Burns, Head of Biomass Conversion Business Development, North America, Novozymes. DSM and Novozymes are both WBCSD members and founding members of below50.
The purpose of the workshop was to discuss with the BIO community the aims and approach of below50 North America. The exchange between the panelists and attendees was robust, and eventually consensus developed around three challenges to be addressed by below50:
- increasing consumer awareness of the benefits of below50 fuels,
- making the case for the use of below50 fuels in corporate fleets and
- encouraging the finance community to look at below50 fuel projects with fresh eyes.
Workshop participants noted the pride that develops in communities where renewable fuel plants are based. In addition, participants discussed the many improvements in the sector that have occurred since the creation of the U.S. Renewable Fuels Standard by the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA). Feedstocks are grown more sustainably. Plants are engineered to operate more efficiently. And renewable fuels are being used not just in cars, but in aviation, maritime and heavy trucking. It was suggested that better ways must be found to communicate these improvements to improve consumer awareness and attitudes towards below50 fuels. It was widely agreed that below50, which brings together stakeholders from the entire low carbon fuel value chain, is uniquely qualified to refresh what has become a stale debate in North America.
Another highlight of the World Congress was the signing of a Partnership Agreement between the Queensland Renewable Fuels Association (QRFA) and below50; whereby, QRFA will host the below50 Australia hub. Through the new partnership, WBCSD and the QRFA plan to raise the profile and contribution low-carbon fuels can make in decarbonizing transport across Australia. As the second largest sugar cane producer in the world, Australia is particularly well-placed to be a leader on sustainable fuels.
With the announcement of partnerships in Australia and North America the below50 campaign has increased the number of regional hubs to four, including hubs in Brazil and Europe. The Australia and North American partnerships come on the heels of the We Mean Business Coalition’s announcement to feature below50 as a key initiative for companies committing to climate action through the We Mean Business platform.
With below50 efforts taking shape across Europe, North America, South America and – now – Australia, low-carbon fuels are quickly gaining prominence and influence on the global sustainability agenda.