In an independent report launched today by a consortium of industry and non-governmental organizations, IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) promotes an innovative policy approach to address the risk of indirect land use change through biofuel production. This involves encouraging and rewarding practices that reduce this risk and penalizing producers who take no action.
There are risks that expanding biofuel production could displace some agricultural production activities onto land with high natural carbon stocks, such as grasslands and forests, leading to significant greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss and potentially threatening food security. The study, which was produced by Ernst & Young and commissioned by a consortium including IUCN, European Renewable Ethanol Association (ePURE), Partners for Euro-African Green Energy (PANGEA), Riverstone, Shell and Neste Oil, examines practical ways to reduce these risks.
IUCN’s solution: “IUCN supports the development of a policy that encourages and rewards practices that reduce the risk of indirect impacts of biofuel production and penalizes producers who take no action,” says Deviah Aiama, IUCN’s Bioenergy Programme Officer. “These practices include improving crop yields on existing agricultural land, introducing integrated food and fuel cropping systems, and the use of wastes and degraded land. By creating incentives that would cover the costs of reducing the risk of indirect land use change, we want to make sure that the use of natural resources for the production of biofuels is ecologically sustainable while also taking into account the realities faced by biofuel producers on the ground.”
Indirect Land Use Change:
“Land conversion due to agriculture is a leading cause of biodiversity loss,” says Giulia Carbone, Deputy Director of IUCN’s Global Business and Biodiversity Programme. “In the case of biofuel production, such conversion could occur indirectly from the increased demand for agricultural products from biofuels markets. One way to reduce this risk is to find sustainable practices to increase supplies of these products without displacing any existing production to other lands. This report looks into possible ways to achieve this.
Managing the environmental impacts of biofuels:
“Replacing fossil fuels with biofuels doesn’t automatically result in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, particularly if we take into account its potential indirect effects, such as land conversion and associated emissions,” says Nadine McCormick, IUCN’s Energy Network Coordinator. “Effectively addressing the risk of indirect land use change can help ensure that biofuels provide a low-carbon fuel source while benefiting nature and local communities.”