Bangladesh Joins Global Biofuels Alliance: Opportunities And Challenges For Biofuel Development – Analysis


On September 9, 2023, on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in New Delhi, India, the G20 Chair, unveiled the Global Biofuels Alliance (GBA). The GBA aims to expedite the global uptake of biofuels by facilitating technological advancements, intensifying the utilization of sustainable biofuels, and shaping robust standard setting and certification through the participation of a wide spectrum of stakeholders. The alliance will also act as a central repository of knowledge and an expert hub. GBA intends to serve as a catalytic platform, fostering global collaboration for the advancement and widespread adoption of biofuels.

Along with the leaders of Singapore, Bangladesh, Italy, the USA, Brazil, Argentina, Mauritius, and the UAE, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the GBA. President Joe Biden joined the launch and expressed his support for the alliance as part of a global effort to combat climate change. The GBA is focused on securing the supply of biofuels and ensuring these biofuels remain affordable and are produced sustainably. The GBA is expected to unlock bioenergy access in emerging economies and help meet the decarbonization goals of the G20 nations. The International Bioenergy Association (IBA) estimates that the global biofuel market could reach $500 billion in the next three years. Biofuels are seen as a crucial element in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing energy security. The GBA will also promote innovation and research in biofuel production and utilization.

Bangladesh has shown interest in joining the Global Biofuels Alliance because it recognizes the potential of biofuels to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, enhance its energy security, and mitigate its greenhouse gas emissions. Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change, and it has committed to reducing its emissions by 5% by 2030 under the Paris Agreement. Biofuels can help Bangladesh achieve this target by replacing conventional fuels in the transport sector, which accounts for about 18% of its total energy consumption.

Bangladesh also has abundant biomass resources that can be used for biofuel production, such as agricultural residues, jute, sugarcane, duckweed, seaweed, and microalgae. Bangladesh produces about 32 million tons of bioethanol from its agricultural residues, which is equivalent to about 40% of its current gasoline consumption. Another study by Rahman et al. suggests that duckweed can be a promising feedstock for biofuel production in Bangladesh, as it can grow rapidly in water bodies and produce high yields of biomass. Duckweed can also provide environmental benefits by improving water quality, reducing eutrophication, and sequestering carbon dioxide.

Biofuels are fuels derived from biomass, such as plants, animals, or organic waste. Biofuels can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Bangladesh by replacing fossil fuels in the energy sector, which is the main source of CO2 emissions in the country. Biofuels can also provide other benefits, such as improving air quality, enhancing energy security, and creating rural employment. The World Bank estimates that Bangladesh could raise $12.5 billion in additional financing in the medium term for climate action, including biofuel development. With strong implementation, technology development and uptake, and regional collaboration, Bangladesh can achieve its climate goals and benefit from biofuels.

According to the UNFCCC, the energy sector accounted for about 75% of Bangladesh’s total greenhouse gas emissions in 2005. Within the energy sector, the main sources of emissions were energy industries (38%), manufacturing industries and construction (24%), transport (17%), and other sectors (18%). Most of these emissions came from the combustion of fossil fuels such as natural gas, coal, oil, and diesel. Biofuels can help reduce these emissions by substituting fossil fuels in various applications in Bangladesh. For example, bioethanol can be blended with gasoline to power vehicles, biodiesel can be used in diesel engines or generators, biogas can be used for cooking or electricity generation, and solid biomass can be used for heating or industrial processes. Biofuels can also reduce the need for importing fossil fuels, which can save foreign exchange and increase energy security in Bangladesh.

The current status of biofuel production in Bangladesh is that it is still in the early stages of development and faces many challenges and barriers. However, the actual production of biofuels is very low and limited to small-scale experiments and pilot projects. Bangladesh does not have a comprehensive and consistent policy framework for promoting biofuel production and utilization. There is no clear mandate, target, incentive, or regulation for biofuel development in the country. Bangladesh lacks the necessary infrastructure for biofuel production, such as processing plants, storage facilities, distribution networks, and blending stations. There is also a lack of quality control and standardization for biofuel products.

Bangladesh has a low level of awareness and acceptance of biofuels among the public and stakeholders. There is a lack of information and education on the benefits and challenges of biofuels. There is also concern about the food security and environmental impacts of biofuel production. There is a lack of funding, expertise, collaboration, and technology transfer for biofuel research and development. Therefore, the current status of biofuel production in Bangladesh has a lot of potential to improve in the future. By joining the Global Biofuels Alliance, Bangladesh can benefit from collaboration and knowledge sharing with other member countries, as well as access to advanced technologies and best practices for biofuel production and utilization.

The GBA will facilitate technological advancements, intensify the utilization of sustainable biofuels, and shape robust standard setting and certification through the participation of a wide spectrum of stakeholders. The GBA will act as a central repository of knowledge and an expert hub for biofuel development. The alliance will also foster global cooperation for the advancement and widespread adoption of biofuels. It may contribute to the global effort to combat climate change. So, the GBA can help Bangladesh reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by replacing fossil fuels with biofuels in the energy sector. The GBA will help Bangladesh tap into its abundant biomass resources. It will leverage additional financing for climate action. The GBA will help Bangladesh mobilize more resources for biofuel development and implementation. Financing options include budget prioritization, carbon taxation, external financing, and private investment.

However, biofuel production and utilization also have some environmental and social impacts that need to be considered. For instance, biofuel feedstocks may compete with food crops for land and water resources; biofuel processing may generate waste and pollution; and biofuel transport and distribution may require infrastructure and regulation. Therefore, biofuel development in Bangladesh should be based on a careful assessment of the potential benefits and costs, as well as the availability and sustainability of biomass resources.

In conclusion, The GBA can also help Bangladesh overcome some of the challenges and barriers that hinder the development of its biofuel sector, such as a lack of policy support, infrastructure, standards, and certification. Therefore, Bangladesh has shown interest in joining the GBA as a way to promote its biofuel potential and contribute to the global effort to combat climate change.

Aishwarya Sanjukta Roy Proma

Aishwarya Sanjukta Roy Proma is a Research Associate at the BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD). She is a research analyst in security studies. She obtained her Master's and Bachelor's in International Relations from the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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