Bioenergy: land-use and mitigating iLUC - Summary and Conclusions from the IEA Bioenergy ExCo74 workshop

Nov 2015

IEA Bioenergy held its biannual workshop in Brussels on the 23rd October 2014 in conjunction with the Executive Committee meeting (ExCo74). The workshop on ‘Bioenergy: land use and mitigating iLUC’ was prepared in close collaboration with DG ENER of the European Commission. More than 100 participants, which included representatives from various European government ministries and NGO’s, attended presentations by leading experts on this important topic. Eleven speakers and a discussion panel from nine different countries, including Europe, North America and South America, made high quality contributions which fully engaged the audience.
The target set for the was workshop to provide a clear and scientifically robust message on iLUC mitigation in an easily accessible format which can be used to inform politicians.  It was interesting to note that most of the findings were consistent even though speakers came from different parts of the world where they were applying different approaches and models. The following is a compilation of the major conclusions drawn from the presentations:
• Food-versus-fuel reports that initiated the work on sustainability and iLUC in particular, which were not scientifically robust, should no longer be part of the general discourse.
• Even though research has come a long way, the current iLUC models still cover only part of the full picture: they do not include uncertainty (where weak assumptions are treated as though they are facts in a model) nor do they take into account improvement through evolving agricultural practice.
• Agricultural land for food and crop production has also to be taken into account. Creation of iLUC is independent of the use of the product of the land. If iLUC is to be mitigated, all agricultural production has to be included and it is important to remember that biofuel production accounts for only a small percentage of this.
• A holistic approach, which covers the whole biomass chain, including food wastage (according to FAO still one third of all food is wasted) and the ongoing global change in diet (less meat consumption means less iLUC), is mandatory.
• If the current trend of growth intensification in the industrialized world through improved crop yield and double cropping can be extended to developing countries, there is considerable scope for iLUC free bioenergy or other biomass production.
• The most important factors in mitigating iLUC are
– Increasing value chain efficiency
– Bringing under-utilized land into production
The central conclusion of the workshop was that iLUC could be prevented when food, feed and fibre production were married to good agricultural practice, in parallel with the deployment of bioenergy.

By: IEA Bioenergy

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