The production of biofuels may indirectly cause land use changes such as deforestation of tropical rainforests, and lead to higher greenhouse gas emissions.
Research by scientists from Utrecht University’s Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development shows that this unwanted land use change can be prevented. Their synthesis report was published on 13 January.
The risk of indirect effects has so far been analysed using economic models but these omitted concrete measures that could counteract the displacement of land. Scientists from Utrecht University have now investigated ILUC mitigation measures in four case studies to produce an enhanced understanding of and recommendations for ILUC mitigation.
The four case studies show that unwanted land use changes caused by biofuels can be mitigated and in some cases prevented. “One of the case studies was done in Poland, where the agricultural land in a single province was found to have the potential to meet the country’s overall target for second generation biofuels for 2020 – without causing ILUC”, says Dr. Wicke.
Also the other case studies show that large amounts of additional biofuels can be produced with a low risk of causing indirect effects: the three European case studies investigated in this project (which together cover only 6% of agricultural land in the European Union) could sustainably produce enough low-ILUC-risk biofuels to supply over 1% of the total energy use (or 13% of the renewable energy use) in road transport in the EU in 2020.
Measures that focus on biofuels alone will not be enough to prevent ILUC. In addition to making biofuels more sustainable, the measures we propose in our study would also benefit the whole agricultural sector.”
- Dr Birka Wicke, Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University, + 31 (0)30 253 4299, B.Wicke@uu.nl
- Tom de Kievith, MA, Press Officer, Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University, + 31 (0)30 253 5593, T.deKievith@uu.nl
- The website of the Copernicus Institute contains more information about ILUC, including a two page summary and the synthesis report.
- ILUC prevention