Prime Minister Modi along with the leaders of G20 nations like USA, Brazil, Singapore, Bangladesh, Italy, Argentina, Mauritius and UAE on the sidelines of the recent G20 meeting on September 9th 2023 launched the Global Biofuels Alliance-GBA. The Global Biofuels Alliance-GBA is the India’s initiative as G20 Chair. The GBA intends to work towards expediting the global biofuel uptake by way of facilitating the technology advancements, intensifying utilization of sustainable biofuels, shaping robust standard setting and certification through the participation of a wide spectrum of stakeholders. The GB alliance will also act as a central repository of knowledge and an expert hub which aims to serve as a platform towards fostering global collaboration for the advancement and widespread adoption of biofuels.
The Global Biofuels Alliance shall work in collaboration with and complement the relevant existing regional and international agencies as well as initiatives in the bioenergy, bio-economy, and energy transition fields more broadly, including the Clean Energy Ministerial Bio-future Platform, the Mission Innovation Bioenergy initiatives, and the Global Bioenergy Partnership (GBEP).
India & Global Biofuels Alliance
The Global Biofuels Alliance has been set up under India’s G20 Presidency and is seen as a priority area. Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister of India Hardeep S Puri had officially made the announcement of GBA during India Energy Week 2023 early this year in Bengaluru. The GBA offers several advantages to India in the G20 context. Biofuels will reduce India’s dependence on fossil fuels and its imports. It will reduce greenhouse gas emissions thus contributing to India’s climate goals. It will enhance farmers’ income through crop diversification and will reduce stubble burning as the same can be used to make biofuel. This will also strengthen the rural economy and ensure job creation and resource efficiency. The research and development in the biofuel industry will involve more innovations and knowledge sharing. India will get more carbon credits through reduction of fossil fuel energy systems. By aligning with Global Biofuel Alliance India will also contribute a lot towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals-SDGs.
A total of 19 countries along with 12 international organizations have so far agreed to join the Global Biofuel Alliance - GBA which includes both G20 members and non-member countries. India, USA and Brazil are the founding members of the GBA. Prime Minister Modi on September 9th formally launched Global Biofuel Alliance-GBA in presence of the US President Joe Biden, President of Brazil Luiz Inacio da Silva, President of Argentina Alberto Angel Fernández, Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and others.
Apart from India, Brazil and the US, the other G20 member countries supporting the initiative are Canada, Italy, Argentina, and South Africa. Mauritius, Singapore, Bangladesh and the UAE are the G20 invited countries.
The non-G20 countries who have shown interest in joining the GBA are Kenya, Guyana, Paraguay, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Uganda , Iceland and Finland. In addition to it international institutions like World Bank, Asian Development Bank, World Economic Forum , World LPG Organization, UN Energy for All, UNIDO, Biofutures Platform, International Civil Aviation Organization, International Energy Agency, International Energy Forum, International Renewable Energy Agency, World Biogas Association are also said to have shown interest to be part of the Global Biofuel Alliance-GBA
PM Modi through an official statement uploaded on X (formerly called twitter) said
“The launch of the Global Biofuels Alliance marks a watershed moment in our quest towards sustainability and clean energy. I thank the member nations who have joined this Alliance.”
Oil producing nations like Saudi Arabia, Russia and China have decided to stay away from the new biofuel alliance
Huge budget for CBG
India has already shown keen interest in providing clean energy by taking up initiatives like setting up more and more biofuel plants. The Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her budget speech in the parliament earmarked Rs 10,000 crore from the Union Budget for 2023-24 towards setting-up of 200 Compressed Biogas (CBG) plants and 300 community & cluster based biogas plants in the country. The Minister also announced duty cuts for certain blended fuels. The Gas Authority of India Ltd (GAIL), Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), Hindustan Petroleum Corporation (HPCL) and Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL) are some of the companies who plan to invest more for setting up the CBG plants. The Union Finance Minister said that under Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro Resources Dhan- also called GOBAR -Dhan scheme Compressed Biogas (CBG) plants will be established for promoting a circular economy. These will include 200 compressed biogas plants and 300 community or cluster-based plants with a total investment of Rs 10,000 crore.
CBG is a mixture of various hydrocarbon gases, produced by decomposition of animal and plant waste which consists mainly of Methane. This is further processed and compressed for use as fuel. CBG is chemically similar to CNG, and hence can be used to replace CNG as transportation fuel. CNG and CBG are both methane based gases. CNG, like gasoline, comes from underground, while CBG is made from fermented waste or other biological material, thus making it a CO2 neutral fuel.
Ethanol and Biodiesel
Unlike other renewable energy sources, biomass can be converted directly into liquid fuels which is also called “biofuel. This will help to meet transportation fuel needs. The two most common types of biofuels in use today are ethanol and biodiesel, both of which represent the first generation of biofuel technology. Ethanol (CH3CH2OH) is a renewable fuel that can be made from various plant materials, collectively known as “Biomass.” Ethanol is an alcohol used as a blending agent with gasoline to increase octane and cut down carbon monoxide and other smog-causing emissions. Biodiesel is a liquid fuel produced from renewable sources, such as new and used vegetable oils and animal fats and is a cleaner-burning replacement for petroleum-based diesel fuel. Biodiesel is nontoxic and biodegradable and is produced by combining alcohol with vegetable oil, animal fat, or recycled cooking grease.Like petroleum-derived diesel, biodiesel is used to fuel compression-ignition (diesel) engines. Biodiesel can be blended with petroleum diesel in any percentage, including B100 (pure biodiesel) and, the most common blend, B20 (a blend containing 20% biodiesel and 80% petroleum diesel).
Air Pollution in J&K
Last year in December the Director of Sher e Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences-SKIMS Dr Parvez Koul said that 10,000 deaths were attributed to air pollution in J&K every year. He said that Srinagar City has the highest incidence of lung cancer in India and a large number of people were suffering from chronic lung diseases in J&K. Dr Koul called for an urgent need to act and control air pollution by countering measures and initiatives like afforestation around Srinagar city especially growing more trees on the hills surrounding Srinagar city like Hari Parbat and Zabarwan mountains which can reduce the air pollution. This is not enough as we need other major steps to be taken on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
GBA & Air Pollution in J&K
The Govt of J&K has to start transitioning from fossil fuel to biofuel. It is encouraging to see more and more electric buses are being operated by Srinagar Municipal Corporation -SMC and J&K Road Transport Corporation under the smart city project . In the last one year we have had a sudden rise in the sale of e-rickshaws which are successfully running on roads in Srinagar and Jammu. We now need to set up electric vehicle charging stations and also this is the time to set up more and more biofuel plants in J&K for which PM Modi has launched a global green movement called Global Biofuel Alliance- GBA. Our Govt institutions like Pollution Control Committee, DC Offices must now stop giving licence to set up fresh brick kilns or cement factories.
The Global Biofuels Alliance -GBA will not only ensure energy security but it will also help India to reduce carbon emissions and ensure protection of Ozone layer which is getting impacted with release of chlorofluorocarbons, CFCs. The main cause of increasing concentration of CFCs is industrial gases which pollute our atmosphere especially the stratosphere. On this World Ozone day let the Govt of India pledge to put a moratorium on setting up new pollution causing industrial units. In environmentally fragile place like Kashmir valley giving permissions to set up new brick kilns or cement factories is a criminal act which goes against the policy of PM Modi’s GBA which is infact a Global Green Movement spearheaded by India.
Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is an Acumen Fellow. He is also Anant Fellow for Climate Action , Anant National University Ahmedabad