PANGEA’s growth is multi-dimensional. The year 2010 saw our small, shared office space in downtown Brussels grow to encompass an entire corner of a dynamic incubator for environmental organisations located in the heart of Brussels’ European Quarter. Sharing space with those with whom we share common goals—and with those whom we must challenge to see the true benefits of bioenergy in Africa—has empowered us to become stronger in both tangible and intangible ways.
During 2010, we became one of the first green NGOs—and perhaps the only one—to have two full-time interns specifically focused in the European Parliament. Every committee meeting related to environment, trade, agriculture, energy and development has a PANGEA intern sitting in attendance, taking fastidious notes for our membership. The events they attend and the workshops in which they participate help us to not only grow our name in Brussels—people see PANGEA everywhere—it also enhances the development of our expertise. We are that much more capable of determing how best to advise on policy decisions when consulted by the European Commission (as we often are) or when an issue arises where we must take a position—such as the food and fuel competition debate or Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC).
Our paid staff has grown as well, with three full-time staff members manning different aspects of PANGEA’s day-to-day activities ranging from policy development and analysis to membership outreach and development to communication. As our expertise, our staff and our facilities have expanded, so has our communication: we are on Facebook (become a fan!) and Twitter (@pangea_link); our network management is more sophisticated as is our newsletter, membership and website tracking. We are collecting and analyzing ever-increasing amounts of data to make certain that we are satisfying the industry’s development needs.
As the needs of our membership grow, so do the services offered by PANGEA. Beyond communications, workshops and event management, lobbying and networking, our premium members are asking for specific products…and we are delivering. From reports exploring policy developments and competitors in a potential investment market to making connections with the European Parliament in Brussels and hosting their events, we are producing results in every arena.
WHAT OUR MEMBERS ASK FOR INFLUENCES FORWARD PLANNING. HOW ELSE CAN WE HELP YOU?
SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE
What became clear in 2010 was that some challenges require long-term planning, continual attention, and persistent solutions. The two that come first to mind are Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) and the Food and Fuel competition debate. A third is the continued stream of misinformation in the press about both of those issues.
In fact, it is this issue of misinformation that seems to be more of the roadblock to progress than either ILUC or feedstock competition. It is such a significant issue, that the University of Essex published a scholarly article last summer in Sociological Research Online examining the influence these anti-biofuels NGOs have had on the biofuels debate in Europe: “We found that in many cases the development of NGO policy has been driven more by narrow political opportunities for influence than by broader and more coherent policy responses to global climate change or economic development, or indeed rigorous assessment of the scientific evidence.”
With the millions of euros behind these NGOs and their anti-biofuels agenda—some of those millions coming directly from the European Commission’s fund for environmental NGOs budgets—the question becomes how can a growing, young organisation like PANGEA ever hope to get sensible policy in Europe let alone develop a market for Africa’s sustainable biofuel exports?
THE ANSWER: WITH CONTINUED SUPPORT FROM OUR MEMBERS AND PARTNERS, THAT’S HOW.
Now, more than ever, it is up to us to get the real data to the public. How food and fuel co-production, how ILUC isn’t a factor in Africa, and how unsustainably produced biofuels in other parts of the world, from rainforest destruction to landgrabbing, has absolutely nothing to do with the African experience—let alone the future of bioenergy in Africa. PANGEA voiced its concerns at every Brussels-based event held in 2010 on these issues. We also were in attendance at several events further afield like an event on landgrabbing in Cameroon and one on food and fuel co-production in Ghana. We received top billing in the global sugar and ethanol industry’s leading market report, FO Licht, explaining the difference between ILUC in Africa and ILUC everywhere else. We won’t stop there.
Just as we learned in 2010 that these issues aren’t going away quickly or easily, we learned that we couldn’t afford to be silent. We need more data, more research, more studies and we will produce more reports, more Tweets, and more policy papers. Our members—present and future—depend on it.
FOCUS ON REGIONAL MARKETS
By 2020, the European Union’s 27 member states are mandated to use 10% biofuels in their overall transport fuel use under the Renewable Energy Directive (RED). It is an ambitious goal but one that many are determined to reach. In the EU, the objective is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as part of the EU’s universal goals to become more energy efficient and use more environmentally friendly energy sources. In the achieving of this goal there will be help for the region’s farmers and help to promote more rural development, ultimately diversifying the economy as well.
The results of PANGEA’s analysis are rather impressive. We looked at some of the regional groupings—WAEMU, SADC (of which South Africa is the only oil producer) and EAC—and guess what we found? Replacing 10% of petrol use in these three regions would reduce fuel imports by nearly US$2 billion per year. For countries that are often starving for foreign exchange, imagine what those savings could purchase rather than oil. That’s also a 10% reduction in energy risk—less impact on the economy when oil prices skyrocket, but the knock on effects of risk reduction would likely be a lot higher. The bonus is the enormous and tangible increase to local economic development through new jobs, technology transfer, increased food security, increased infrastructure for both people and goods, development of secondary and tertiary support industries, new SMEs and most of all, more money for school fees.
What other industry offers those kinds of benefits top down and bottom up?
LOOKING AT INDIA AND BRAZIL
During our first year, we wanted to explore more closely the relationship between the North—ostensibly through development aid and foreign agencies—and Africa in terms of bioenergy investment. The results of our workshop showed good intentions but very few viable projects.
As much of the excitement over investment from Europe and the US fell off as a result of the 2008 financial crisis, PANGEA began to look at where investment and technology transfer was actually coming from. The answer, it turned out, was Brazil and India. We decided to launch a workshop series that would focus on what these countries, their governments and their private sectors were doing in African biofuels, and our results were really exciting.
At each of the three workshops PANGEA held in 2010—in Maputo, Nairobi and Johannesburg—the Brazilian government was a key highlight. They are investing money and know how to help governments across Africa develop biofuel policies that will encourage not only project development but also build long-lasting industries. The national agricultural research agency, EMBRAPA, has its sleeves rolled up and is working on bioenergy in both Accra and Maputo.
It is apparent that it will take the Brazilian private sector a little while longer to embrace the opportunities, and it is easy to see why. They are experiencing very high returns from their own huge domestic ethanol market and do not yet see the value in investing in new markets. Brazilian companies are happy to sell technology in Africa, but getting direct investment from them will require more time. Thankfully, the African Development Bank (AfDB) is working on a bioenergy investment programme in conjunction with the Brazilian national development bank (BNDES) to do just that.
(PANGEA authored a report on this new development which is available on the Members Only portion of our website.)
India is also having a significant impact on the African bioenergy industry, but in a much more modest manner. Indian technology companies have seen the African market as a potential hot spot and are already delving into markets, especially in biogas and ethanol. One Indian company who presented at our workshop in Nairobi—thanks to our members Pipal Ltd.—has built its business in East Africa over the past few years to such a degree that now it is seeking out new markets as there isn’t enough agricultural waste left to process. India’s EXIM Bank is doing an excellent job of financing as well. With major investments of more than US$680 million in Ethiopia’s sugar industry working to facilitate the transition into a better, more efficient ethanol producer, the EXIM Bank is a recent investor of US$180 million to Sudan’s newest sugar and ethanol project. The bank has opened a branch in South Africa, which may lead to more investments across the continent.
THE KEY TO SUSTAINABILITY
Sustainability is at the heart of PANGEA’s work and is a key factor in the development of any industry, and especially in the case of bioenergy. In Europe, sustainability is often two pronged: environmental and social. PANGEA agrees, however, as we work so closely with the private sector, we are well aware that economic sustainability is just as key. Without economic sustainability a project cannot survive without subsidies. Profits are necessary to maintain payroll, to finance environmental rehabilitation projects, and to provide community services and the like.
Whose responsibility is sustainability? Often the focus is purely on the investor and that, in itself, isn’t sustainable. It’s a team effort, one built with the company, the community and the government—a check and balance system where everyone is required to work together. The triangle of sustainability’s three pillars must be balanced by the triangle of those ensuring that sustainability.
This is a concept developed by our Secretary General while she was preparing for a conference on landgrabbing in Cameroon last October. Companies are responsible for how they invest and how they interact with communities, but governments are also responsible for ensuring that companies don’t damage the environment or the communities where they will invest. Equally, however, it is up to communities to not be passive recipients of investment but to engage with investors and government so that those governments and investors are informed of the true risks, the true benefits and how they can participate and mitigate. Then, inform their neighbours. This sustainability paradigm is a shared responsibility, and everyone must work together.