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Cablegate: Biofuels: Us Expert Urges Colombia to Look Toward

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INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 8406
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RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1061
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA 2384
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RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS BOGOTA 003585

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SENSITIVE

WHA/EPSC FOR FCORNEILLE; EEB/TPP FOR JBOBO; EEB/ESC FOR
MMCMANUS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ENRG EAGR ECON PGOV CO
SUBJECT: BIOFUELS: US EXPERT URGES COLOMBIA TO LOOK TOWARD
SUSTAINABILITY STANDARDS

REF: A. STATE 30223
B. BOGOTA 36

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: With funding from the Bureau of Economic,
Energy and Business Affairs (EEB), Embassy Bogota hosted the
visit of Roundtable for Sustainable Biofuels Director
Charlotte Opal September 3-5 to inform local biofuels
producers and policymakers about the ongoing international
dialogue on sustainability standards. As part of the two-day
speaking program, Ms. Opal met with environmental activists,
biofuels producers, government officials, and media as well
as visited a biodiesel production facility under development.
Ms. Opal anchored her visit with a public presentation to
approximately 175 industry, government, academic and media
representatives at the National Economists' Forum. She
underscored the potential to sustainably develop the
Colombian biofuels sector, urging the public and private
sectors to work closely on supplying input to rapidly
evolving global discussions on standards. She also
encouraged Colombia to include preparations for international
biofuels certifications in its plans to eventually supply
biofuels for export. Colombian interlocutors responded
favorably, but emphasized the importance of avoiding a
proliferation of different biofuel standards that could
create a barrier to sector development. As a result of the
visit, the GOC biofuels coordinator agreed to convoke a
domestic working group to contribute Colombian comments to
the international discussions on biofuels standards. END
SUMMARY.

Keynote Presentation
--------------------

2. (U) On September 3, Ms. Opal addressed approximately 175
biofuels producers, government officials, academics, and
members of the local media at the National Economists' Forum
regarding work of the Roundtable for Sustainable Biofuels and
other institutions in developing sustainability standards for
biofuels production. Ms. Opal outlined the current version
of standards proposed by the Roundtable as well as the
ongoing discussions in the Global Bioenergy Partnership
(GBEP). She noted that individual markets such as the
European Union were likely to establish firm sustainability
standards for imported biofuels by 2010. Following the
speech, audience members asked about the proliferation of
standards mechanisms for various feedstock, the coordination
between ongoing dialogues, and how standards might serve as a
barrier to trade and development. Ms. Opal highlighted the
collaboration between the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels
and other institutions such as the Roundtable for Sustainable
Palm Oil as part of the effort to avoid duplicative
standards. She urged input from all stakeholders, including
Colombian, in order to develop mutually agreed standards that
fostered, rather than impeded, development of a global
biofuels industry.

Environment, Producer, Media & GOC Meetings
-------------------------------------------

3. (U) Ms. Opal attended roundtables with environmental,
producer and GOC officials, respectively, to discuss the
potential for sustainable development of biofuels in Colombia
and the role of international standards. Representatives
from the Nature Conservancy, the Humboldt Center, the World
Wildlife Fund, Conservation International, and the
Inter-American Development Bank outlined efforts to
coordinate with palm and sugar producers on establishing
environmental principles for biodiesel and ethanol
production. They welcomed the establishment of broad
international standards for sustainable biofuels, but
acknowledged that Colombia needed to move faster to
contribute to the dialogue. Ms. Opal encouraged the
environmental community to seek out areas of cooperation with
biofuels producers on land management and shared principles.


4. (U) In discussions with the Federation of Biofuels
Producers, Ms. Opal stressed the value-added benefits of
seeking international certifications of compliance with
environmental, labor, and quality standards. She also
encouraged producers to continue to pursue production

practices that prevent deforestation, protect biodiversity
and promote sound land management.

5. (SBU) In her meeting with National Biofuels Coordinator
Arturo Infante and technical representatives of the
Ministries of Energy, Agriculture and Planning, Ms. Opal
urged the GOC to coordinate with the environmental community
and private sector as it develops domestic biofuels
standards. Dr. Infante noted efforts to incorporate
stakeholder input into the National Biofuels Strategy
announced in April 2008. He also announced that the GBEP had
just accepted Colombia as a member country and said that he
hoped the GBEP could serve as a governmental forum for
standards discussions. Infante expressed some reservations
about the "virtual" format of the Roundtable's stakeholder
dialogue, suggesting that a schedule of formal meetings might
be more effective, but agreed to activate a multi-stakeholder
Colombian working group to provide input to the Roundtable's
draft standards, as well as through the GBEP.

Media Roundtable
----------------

6. (U) In light of the high-profile of biofuels issues in
Colombian media, Ms. Opal concluded her visit by briefing
journalists from leading print media outlets El Tiempo,
Portafolio, Colprensa, La Republica, Dinero, and
Responsibilidad Social. The participating journalists told
post following the roundtable that the briefing was valuable
in underscoring the ongoing international discussion of
sustainable biofuels and that they planned to include
material from the discussion with Ms. Opal in future
reporting on the sector.

Site Visit
----------

7. (U) In addition to the public diplomacy program, Post
organized a site visit for Ms. Opal to a palm oil-based
biodiesel plant in Facatativa, outside of Bogota. Ms. Opal
toured the new facility scheduled to initiate operations
October 1 and received a briefing from the plant's general
manager regarding the sustainable supply change and
low-environmental impact operational model.

Result/Impact
-------------

8. (SBU) Ms. Opal's presentations on the rapidly evolving
global discussions on biofuels standards served to capture
the attention of Colombian biofuels producers, environmental
activists and government policymakers. While Colombia had
begun looking at sustainable certification of biofuels, Ms.
Opal's messages on promoting public-private dialogue and
contributing now to international standards discussions
before global principles are finalized resonated with
audiences. Most importantly, National Biofuels Coordinator
Infante's commitment to activate a Colombian working group to
provide input to international standards discussions
represents a tangible outcome of the visit and will help
ensure that Colombia's experiences are incorporated into the
global biofuels sustainability debate.
NICHOLS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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