Biofuels: indirect land use change and climate impact

By promoting biofuels European governments aim to achieve a 70 Mt reduction in annual greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Production of these fuels requires vast areas of arable land, possibly leading to deforestation, whether directly or indirectly.

CE Delft has evaluated 7 agro-economic models used to estimate the latter, indirect form of land use change, or ILUC. The conclusion is that all the models predict a substantial ILUC effect. ILUC-related GHG emissions are on average of the same magnitude as the direct emission cuts achieved, which means the carbon footprint of today‘s ‘first generation’ biofuels is generally no better than that of fossil fuels.

ILUC can be prevented by using waste materials as biofuel feedstocks, by cultivating biofuel crops on degraded land or through additional agricultural intensification. European governments can promote these lower-carbon alternatives by introducing an ‘ILUC factor’ in the rules used to calculate the net GHG emissions of biofuels. The report presents concrete options for such factors.


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