“Listen to different stakeholders on what they think of your product, process and raw material because if there is uncertainty on the sustainability of the raw materials in the beginning they will not go away.”
Working to highlight the repercussions of transport on the world’s climate, its environment and also health, Transport & Environment have contributed to a number of EU policy changes that include binding standards for more fuel-efficient vehicles and more sustainable biofuels. The group was established 28 years ago and now represents more than 50 organisations from 26 countries across Europe in pursuit of its sustainability vision.
So it is with great pleasure that we welcome Jori Sihvonen, Transport & Environment’s clean fuels officer, for this week’s Bio-Based world News’ 5 Minutes With… to give us a picture of where they are at in their mission to make transport greener. Jori gives his views to Dave Songer on how he believes transport can be decarbonised, where he would like to see the organisation in a decade’s time and the European directive he believes will have a major impact on the future biofuel market.
Dave Songer (DS): Hi Jori, you have a lot of experience in the bio-based/sustainable industry – what first inspired you to want to work in it?
Jori Sihvonen (JS): Initially is was about managing the natural resources better, which in my country meant forests. During my studies this evolved to include climate change mitigation, which brings a further added value to the products.
DS: What does your role at Transport & Environment entail and what do you most enjoy about it?
JS: I work mainly on EU policy around bioenergy. My role is a bit more analytical and slightly less political, which is a role in which I can best use my skills to support our organisation. We’re a surprisingly effective and small organisation and that makes a difference; I enjoy being a wheel in this movement towards sustainable transport.
DS: What has been the biggest professional challenge in your career?
JS: Moving to the Brussels EU policy bubble was not easy with a technical background in forestry. It took a while to be at home, but I learnt that experts from different backgrounds are needed in policy organisations – one just needs patience.
DS: What advice would you give someone looking to get started in the bio-based industry?
JS: Be safe and listen to different stakeholders on what they think of your product, process and raw material because if there is uncertainty on the sustainability of the raw materials in the beginning they will not go away. You can mitigate it but the uncertainty remains. Hence, use only raw materials which are considered sustainable by a wide range of stakeholders, including environmental organisations. Consensus is needed that the product and raw materials is sustainable for successful and long-lasting business.
DS: How has the industry changed in the time you have worked in it?
JS: Advanced biofuels are becoming a reality, they are still small but it proves it’s possible to move away from crop biofuels. There has been more movement in non-bio alternative fuels and power trains. A few years ago biofuels were seen as the only solution in maritime, trucks and planes, but all of these modes of transport have other fuel options – such as ammonia, hydrogen, power-to-liquid and trolley trucks. They are developing fast and can provide more viable full decarbonisation pathways, because ultimately in the end the amount of sustainable biofuels is limited.
DS: Where would you like to see the organisation in ten years’ time?
JS: More spread out across Europe, that would be great. The first steps have already been taken towards that with colleagues in Spain and Italy; having a local presence in member states makes influencing policy easier, and also allows our brand to become better known. We have members now in most EU countries and they do an excellent job, but this will complement their efforts. Our key role, however, is to be influential on EU policy, something we will achieve using our science-based approach and covering the part of the arguments that the other stakeholders conveniently don’t talk about.
DS: What project(s) is Transport & Environment (@transenv) currently working on, can you provide some details?
JS: Our main aim in our work is to decarbonise transport and we do that by working mainly through impacting EU policy, but also in the international level for the International Maritime Organization (@IMOHQ) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (@icao). So our strength is that we see the bigger picture in transport decarbonisation and what needs to be done. In reality there are many options out there to decrease emissions in transport, starting from walking or cycling, to increasing engine efficiency and travelling by train instead of plane.
DS: You spoke at World Bio Markets this year – what did you cover there and what did you most enjoy about your time there?
JS: I spoke mainly about the Renewable Energy Directive (for the period 2021-2030) now being discussed in Brussels. It will have a major impact on the biofuel market, as it has been the largest driver for the use of biofuels in the EU. The audience at WBM is not my usual, but I think it is valuable that the industry knows the concerns of the environmental movement, and question some feedstocks they are using and to develop better practices.
DS: What is your favourite bio-based/sustainable product?
JS: We have a smoke sauna built of logs back at our summer house in Finland, that’s pretty special, but in general I would like to see more wooden buildings and longer-lasting products which store carbon for longer. I am especially interested in the possibilities of cross-laminated timber in the building industry.
DS: Super, thanks Jori.
Read the last 5 minutes with… Gerald Michael, global business manager at Synvina.
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