Bio Digest: The design of biomass policy and net zero

The Bio-Digests brings you the latest in biomass and bioenergy research, presented in easy-to-digest summaries, to keep you informed about the rapidly evolving bioenergy landscape.

Designing biomass policy: the political economy of renewable energy for net zero

Daniel Taylor (Aston University), Katie Chong (Aston University), and Mirjam Röder (Aston University)

Our political and economic institutions determine policies that influence the distribution of wealth, benefits, and inequalities associated with biomass extraction from our natural environment. This includes who the biomass is extracted by, where value is applied to/extracted from biomass along the supply chain, and who benefits. Biomass has the potential to contribute towards alleviating climate, ecological, and energy emergencies, sometimes achieving a “win-win-win” in tackling all three emergencies at once, but the current political economy will determine the success of this. The same political economy has been extracting fossil fuels, amassing wealth within a few multinational corporations, and driving rising carbon emissions for decades; what does this mean for biomass?

This research highlights that whilst transition to renewable energy is a technical process, it is also a process of social, environmental, and economic change too, which has the potential to challenge the status quo. The status quo determines who benefits from energy, where wealth is created, and the level of inequality between stakeholders within our energy systems, motivating stakeholders to engage in public policy to ensure any trade-offs in new policy benefit them. This presents a challenge to policymakers seeking to maximise the benefits of utilising biomass to achieve climate and energy policy objectives, whilst navigating the trade-offs and tricky decisions associated with determining the policies to achieve net zero by 2050. Uncertainty of public opinion on biomass, its inherent links to our natural world, and the potential for delivering negative emissions, further politicise its use.

The findings from this review paper can inform decision-makers within governmental and non-governmental organisations involved in biomass and bioenergy, on the factors that shape successful renewable energy policy, and the subsequent implications for biomass sustainability as we move towards net zero.

Read the full paper here.

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