CIFOR Report Analyzes Land Use Impacts of EU’s Biofuel Policy
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The CIFOR report, titled "Transformations in EU biofuels markets under the Renewable Energy Directive and the implications for land use, trade and forests," notes that the EU biofuel policy creates both economic opportunities and environmental challenges for developing countries, and finds that while the EU's policy addresses direct land use change fairly well, the way in which indirect land use change is treated raises concerns.

4 June 2012: The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) has released a report titled “Transformations in EU biofuels markets under the Renewable Energy Directive and the implications for land use, trade and forests,” which examines the EU’s biofuel policy, its implications for EU and international biofuel markets, as well as its impacts on direct and indirect land use change, international trade and forest conservation.

The report focuses on the potential impacts of imported biofuels from tropical and subtropical regions, where deforestation, poverty alleviation and economic development are of particular concern. It analyzes EU and global biofuel markets and notes that while the expansion in biofuel markets creates economic opportunities for developing countries to export to the EU, it can also result in significant land use change and environmental impacts.

The report also provides an overview of the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (EU-RED), which includes a mandatory target of 10% renewable energy in the transport sector, and sustainability criteria to which biofuels must adhere that are mainly aimed at addressing land use, biodiversity and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The report finds that the cost of meeting the sustainability criteria, which occurs mainly by means of voluntary certification schemes, can present a barrier for importers from less developed countries.

The report further finds that the EU-RED addresses direct land use change (dLUC) fairly well, although some smaller forested areas are not well covered. Regarding indirect land use change (iLUC), the report raises concerns about the expected use of a general iLUC factor, rather than a crop-specific one that could benefit lower-impact feedstocks. Furthermore, it is noted that significant uncertainties remain in iLUC modeling. The report ends by examining “second-generation” biofuels, which are made from lignocellulosic biomass, and medium-term iLUC impacts from imports.

CIFOR is a member of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). [SEI Press Release] [Publication: Transformations in EU Biofuels Markets Under the Renewable Energy Directive and the Implications for Land Use, Trade and Forests]