iass_unep 22 April 2015: A report, titled ‘The Role of Biomass in the Sustainable Development Goals: A Reality Check and Governance Implications’ and published by the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), was jointly launched by IASS and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) on the sidelines of the Third Global Soil Week in Berlin, Germany.

The report, which specifically highlights the crosscutting, yet overlooked, role of different types of biomass in the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), includes chapters on: projected land demand for food, feed, biomaterials and bioenergy production and consumption, as implied by the SDGs; growing demands, finite supply and the availability of land for biomass production over time; review of existing problems with large-scale biomass production; beyond silo-thinking toward a nexus perspective; and governance implications for sustainable biomass in the SDGs.

During the launch, Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director, IASS, explained that the report assesses the coherence of the SDGs and their targets with regard to soil and biomass. He said the report indicates that the projected demand for biomass under the SDGs will exceed the quantities that can be produced with currently available arable land, leading to adverse consequences, such as, inter alia, food-fuel competition over productive land.

Overall, the paper contends that, in their current form, the proposed SDGs are unsustainable because their implied biomass demands cannot be sustainably met. It argues that the SDGs do not adequately reflect the sustainable production and consumption of biomass in an explicit and integrated manner, although biomass production is implicit in goals related to food security, energy, industrial development, consumption and production patterns, and ecosystem protection.

The report highlights the need to look at biomass production and consumption across its different uses (food, feed, biomaterials and bioenergy), since they depend on the same land resources and might end up directly competing with each other. It further identifies and analyses the inter-dependencies and trade-offs between different biomass demands, as well as the need to protect the natural resource base. [Publication: The Role of Biomass in the Sustainable Development Goals: A Reality Check and Governance Implications] [IASS Website] [IISD RS Coverage of the Third Global Soil Week 2015]