Bamboo buildings and products spotlighted at UN Climate Change Conference
Bamboo widely recognized as a key nature-based solution at the 2022 UN Climate Change Conference.
From 6 November to 18 November, the 27th session of the Conference to the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP 27) convened in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. INBAR, as an observer to the three Rio conventions, made a strong showing at the UN Climate Change Conference this year, organizing two side events and participating in another, championing the importance of bamboo to tackle global climate issues.
Side event #1: The potential of bamboo as a material for sustainable construction and circular economic development
On 14 November, the side event entitled “The potential of bamboo as a material for sustainable construction and circular economic development” kicked off at the UNFCCC Global Innovation Hub. The session was dedicated to exploring the potential of bamboo as a material for sustainable construction and circular economic development.
Massamba Thioye, Project Executive at the UN Climate Change Global Innovation Hub, gave the opening remarks for the session. He highlighted that bamboo is a nature-based solution with enormous innovation potential from high- to low-end products, all of which can contribute to carbon neutralization and sequestration goals. This is abundantly clear, particularly given its status as a fast-growing plant that sustains rural livelihoods and enterprises at different scales. The UN Innovation Hub will closely work with INBAR globally to marshal new products and research to combat climate change. Professor Lu Wenming, Deputy Director General of INBAR, gave the opening remarks on behalf of Ali Mchumo, Director General of INBAR. He mentioned that INBAR is working across Asia, Africa and Latin America to promote sustainable development using bamboo and rattan. A multifunctional forest resource, bamboo has around 1640 species with applications in the circular economy, rural livelihoods and climate change mitigation and adaptation. Recently, INBAR organized the Second Global Bamboo and Rattan Congress (BARC 2022) and with the Government of China co-launched the Bamboo as a Substitute for Plastic Initiative.
Later, seven participants delivered presentations and case studies on the uses of bamboo as a sustainable construction material as well as lessons learned from circular economic development schemes in Ecuador, India, China, Myanmar, Uganda and the Philippines.
Lloyd Day, Deputy Director of Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, gave a brief note in the session on the potential of bamboo resources that remains untapped. He further mentioned that this potential could be unlocked via added-value products, and also suggested that strengthening value chains to bring benefits into local communities would be crucial for allowing bamboo to fully contribute to circular economic development.
Closing remarks were given by Dr. Carlos Ruiz-Garvia, Project Manager of the UNFCCC Global Innovation Hub at the UN Climate Change Secretariat. He points out that the speakers at this session presented implementable and practical solutions, and that bamboo is a highly applicable resource for climate mitigation and spurring green development. He stated the facts simply, but elegantly: One simple 25 m2 bamboo house is on average capable of sequestering around 6 metric tons of CO2 compared to houses made with cement, iron and bricks. In addition, bamboo generates livelihoods and supports the development of enterprises at different scales, helping the world achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The UNFCCC Innovation Hub is a critical platform for INBAR and the UN to strengthen their partnership and cooperation, particularly around scaling up innovative bamboo products and applications to reduce carbon emissions, create employment and foster gender equality.
Finally, a number of products made with bamboo materials were on exhibition for participants to enjoy.
Side event #2: Bamboo as a Substitute for Plastics Initiative
On 16 November, the side event organized at the China Pavilion was fully dedicated to the Bamboo as a Substitute for Plastic Initiative co-launched by INBAR and China earlier that month. The keynote address was delivered by Zhang Guobin, Deputy Division Chief, Climate Change Management Section, Department of Ecological Protection and Restoration, National Forestry and Grassland Administration of China. In his speech, he mentioned that bamboo is an excellent resource capable of making significant contributions to achieving carbon neutrality and green growth.
His opening remarks were followed by the presentation of Shen Genlian, an entrepreneurial pioneer based in Sichuan, China. As Founder of BABO, a popular Chinese company known for manufacturing bamboo tissue products, she contributed a great deal of private sector expertise to the topic of plastic substitution. She particularly noted that bamboo fibers can replace a wide variety of plastic materials, helping nations and the world sequester more carbon while developing new industries.
Another presentation was delivered by Dr. Fang Changhua, Professor at the International Centre for Bamboo and Rattan (ICBR). Dr. Fang highlighted the staggering number of products made with plastic that can be substituted with bamboo-based materials and commented on the relevance of responsibly exploiting bamboo resources to fill in these gaps. ICBR and INBAR are working hand-in-hand to promote the Bamboo as a Substitute for Plastic Initiative through research and development initiatives.
Afterward, a discussion and Q&A session occurred between the two speakers. Next, Karina Barrera Under Secretary of Climate Change, Ministry of Environment, Water and Ecological Transition of Ecuador and Dr. Carlos Ruiz-Garvia were invited for panel discussion.
During the panel discussion, Karina Barrera highlighted that the Government of Ecuador has made new law to reduce the use of plastics, and bamboo is one of the alternative substitutes across high- to low-end packaging. She went on to state that low-end packaging can be widely used across the agriculture sector, such as for carrying vegetables from farms to markets. Bamboo is therefore creating rural employment and reducing the use of plastic packaging, while encouraging the market to adopt greener, financially viable practices. Moreover, under REDD+ initiatives, the Government of Ecuador has paid increasing attention to bioeconomy-based activities through promoting SMEs as well as women and youth employment while simultaneously upgrading the value chains. To help the activities reach scale, a new initiative is currently in the pipeline of UNFCCC negotiations.
Dr. Carlos Ruiz-Garvia responded to a question regarding the appropriate mechanisms for mainstreaming the Bamboo as a Substitute for Plastic Initiative. He explained that innovative technologies, policies and research will need to intersect and coalesce in order to scale up alternative bamboo products. He further remarked that the initiative has tremendous scope and presents clear opportunities to meet a variety of pressing agendas, from gender and mitigation to circular economic development. However, in order to succeed, the initiative needs sector-based approaches that strengthen capacity at different levels. One success story is that bamboo shelter homes can make substantial contributions to carbon reduction, sequestration, neutrality, and overall youth employment and job securement.
In conclusion, it is necessary to draft a comprehensive roadmap that is feasible and operational. Such a plan should be long-term and based on countries and regions all around the world with access to bamboo resources, acting as an important framework for guiding bamboo development in the right direction so that it may serve as a viable alternative to plastics. Other supportive areas are in need of further attention as well, such as conducting pricing interventions and technological interventions. The UNFCCC Hub will perform the necessary actions in this regard.
At the end of the event, speakers responded to audience questions related to technology, financing and the availability of bamboo resources for manufacturing alternative products.
Side event #3: Challenge and opportunities for promoting NBS in synergies between climate change and biodiversity
On 17 November, INBAR participated in the panel discussion at the China Pavilion on the topic “Challenge and opportunities for promoting NBS in synergies between climate change and biodiversity” organized by the China Green Carbon Foundation, an organization led by National Forestry and Grassland Administration of China.
The Washington Post named bamboo an “important climate solution” at COP 27.
A complete recording of the side event on bamboo construction can be found online.