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Strengthening Institutional Capacity on Sustainability Criteria for Bioenergy

 A three-day standardization workshop on “Strengthening institutional capacity on sustainability criteria for bioenergy” was held from 21-23 November in Kathmandu. The workshop was part of a longer project “Trade promotion through standardization” being implemented jointly by South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE) and the Swedish Standards Institute (SIS) with the support of the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) in eight countries of the South and Southeast Asia regions, namely, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Viet Nam. The workshop was organized against the backdrop of the setting of a new standard on the sustainability criteria for bioenergy by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

Speaking at the inaugural session, Dr Posh Raj Pandey, Executive Chairman of SAWTEE, stated that the initial euphoria among policy makers and private sector representatives about the role of bioenergy in mitigating climate change is being questioned now since the use of bioenergy is not necessarily carbon neutral if looked at from a life-cycle perspective. Extensive promotion of bioenergy could also have environmental (e.g., destruction of biodiversity, soil erosion) and social (e.g., exploitation of small farmers or their displacement to produce bioenergy) impacts. There are also concerns that there will be competing use of land to produce either foodstuff or bioenergy, which, therefore, will have serious implications for food security. Hence, it is important for developing and least-developed countries to actively engage in the setting of standards on sustainability criteria for bioenergy. More so because international trade of bioenergy has been taking place gradually, and developing countries are more competitive in the production and trade of bioenergy due to adequate natural resources and low cost of production. If their concerns are not reflected in the standards that are being set, they might have to face trade barriers later. Exercises like the workshop would help countries become standard setters and not only standard takers.Speaking as the Chief Guest, Mr Krishna Gyawali, Secretary of the Ministry of Industry, Government of Nepal, informed that the Government of Nepal has prepared a climate change policy, and is also committed to implementing the commitments it has made at relevant international forums such as the Rio Summit. Because bioenergy is a crucial aspect of climate change, it is extremely important for the country to engage in such a standard-setting process. He emphasized that by actively participating in the standard-setting process, Nepal will be able to optimize the use of its resources. Dr Ram Adhar Sah, Director General of the Nepal Bureau of Standards and Metrology, which is the focal organization for standards in Nepal, opined that Nepal is an agricultural country, but it has not been able to fully exploit its agriculture potential. There is a possibility that through the bioenergy standards, it could fully utilize that potential. Ms Carina Svensson, International Project Manager of SIS, introduced the workshop to the participants and explained what was expected of them.

The experts introduced the ISO, its systems, procedures and regulations. They also suggested ways to access relevant information about ISO supporting systems and tools in order to actively participate in the ISO standardisation processes. During the workshop the participants worked on the draft ISO standard on sustainability criteria for bioenergy with the support of experts working in this area, and send their comments to the ISO. The workshop focused on preparing for ISO meeting in Brisbane in January 2013.  Each of the eight countries worked in groups and prepared their country position for the meeting.

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