Indirect land use change (ILUC) occurs when land formerly used for a food crop is turned over to production of biofuels© toshi8 (stock.xnchg)
Public consultation on indirect land use change and biofuels
The European Commission has launched a public consultation on indirect land use change and biofuels. Indirect land use change (ILUC) occurs when land formerly used for a food crop is turned over to production of biofuels. As a result, cultivation of the displaced food crop is often transferred to a location where land prices and the costs associated with agriculture are lower – this can be on grasslands and forested land. This is of concern because the deforestation and cultivation of virgin or semi-virgin land releases high levels of carbon previously held in soil and plants into the atmosphere. Subsequent use of nitrogen fertilizers on poorer soils would also lead to emissions of N2O from the soil.
The Commission has issued several studies on the topic. Interested parties are welcome to base their contributions on these studies, where comments on the underlying assumptions, data and methodology are of special interest, as well as on other analytical work. The Commission is also seeking advice on concrete policy options.
The report "Impacts of the EU biofuel target on agricultural markets and land use: a comparative modelling assessment", published by the JRC Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS), analyses and discusses the global impacts of the 10% biofuel target on agricultural production, markets and land use, as simulated by three agricultural sector models. The impacts identified include higher EU production of ethanol and biodiesel, and of the crops used to produce them, as well as more imports of both biofuels.
The study "Indirect land use change from increased biofuels demand", published by the JRC Institute for Energy (IE), compared the ILUC results produced by six existing agro-economic models, each characterised by different structures and underlying assumptions. It tasked the models with predicting the outcome of increased demand for biofuels against a variety of scenarios. While the predicted outcomes varied, all suggested that marginal increases in biofuel demand would have significant ILUC effects, particularly in countries such as Brazil and Indonesia.