Though Nepal is an agricultural country, it has failed to fully exploit its potential due to the absence of standardisation, according to experts.
"Nepal has the possibility to take advantage through bio-energy standards to fully utilise its agriculture potential," said director general of Nepal Bureau of Standards and Metrology Dr Ram Adhar Sah, addressing a three-day standardisation workshop on 'Strengthening institutional capacity on sustainability criteria for bio-energy' that started here in the capital today.
Likewise, executive chairman of South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE) Dr Posh Raj Pandey said that the initial euphoria among policy makers and private sector representatives about the role of bio-energy in mitigating climate change is being questioned now since the use of bio-energy is not necessarily carbon neutral, if looked at from a life-cycle perspective.
"Extensive promotion of bio-energy could also have environmental effects like destruction of biodiversity and soil erosion, and social impacts like exploitation of small farmers or their displacement to produce bio-energy impacts," he said.
Pandey added that there are also concerns that there will be competition on whether to use land to produce food or bio-energy, which, therefore, will have serious implications for food security. "Hence, it is important for developing and least-developed countries to actively engage in setting standards on sustainability criteria for bio-energy."
International trade of bio-energy has been taking place gradually, and developing countries are more competitive in the production and trade of bio-energy due to adequate natural resources and low cost of production, Pandey said. "If their concerns are not reflected in the standards that are being set, they might face trade barriers later."
Speaking as chief guest, secretary at the ministry of industry Krishna Gyawali informed that the government has prepared a climate change policy. "Bio-energy is a crucial aspect of climate change and it is extremely important for the country to engage in such a standard-setting process," he said, emphasising that by actively participating in the standard-setting process, Nepal will be able to optimise the use of its resources.
The workshop is part of a longer project 'Trade promotion through standardisation' being implemented jointly by SAWTEE and the Swedish Standards Institute (SIS), with support from the Swedish International Development Agency in eight countries of the South and Southeast Asia regions, namely, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.
The workshop is being organised against the backdrop of the setting of a new standard on the sustainability criteria for bioenergy by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO).
International project manager of SIS Carina Svensson introduced the workshop to the participants and explained what was expected of them.Over the next three days, participants will work on the draft of ISO standard on sustainability criteria for bioenergy with support from experts working in this area, and send their comments to ISO.