Bioenergy is expected to play an important role in future sustainable and low carbon energy supply. But increased production of crops for bioenergy can trigger potential indirect land use change (ILUC). This has become a critical point of discussion for the sustainability of bioenergy. Various scientific studies have shown a wide variability in potential ILUC impacts of different crops and in different settings; and results remain uncertain.
Existing studies are limited
A key limitation of existing studies is that they exclude the impact of possible mitigation options and policies. But minimizing and even preventing ILUC is essential if bioenergy is to play an important role in future sustainable energy supply. The ILUC prevention project aimed assessing how ILUC can be minimized, how this can be quantified, and how ILUC prevention may be governed.
The ILUC prevention project applied a regional approach that presumes that ILUC can be prevented if increased regional production is made possible without diverting other crop production nor expanding on high carbon stock or high conservation value lands.
A sustainable approach to all crop production
This project shows that large amounts of additional biofuels can be produced with a low risk of causing ILUC if a sustainable approach to all crop production is taken. This requires increasing productivity and resource efficiency in the production for all of these purposes, and appropriate zoning of land for all purposes. Above-baseline yield developments and use of under-utilized land are the most important measures for preventing ILUC. Substantial investment in the agricultural sector is essential to realize the low-ILUC-risk potential of biofuels as estimated in this study as well as to strengthen and enforce land use policies.
An integrated perspective
Important to note is that ILUC is a consequence of the interconnected nature of the biofuel and agricultural sectors. As a result, a governing framework for ILUC mitigation needs to take a broader and more integrated perspective by stimulating increases in resource efficiency and productivity across all crops and by addressing all land use, whether for food, feed, fibre and fuels.