Archive - Land use changes

Evolution of the iLUC Debate and EU Biofuels Policy

See the Biofuels Legislation page for updates to the EU proposals to amend the RED/FQD to reflect public and political concerns over iLUC.

iLUC factors in the EC proposal (October 2012) to minimise the climate impact of biofuels

The directive amending the Renewable Energy Directive and the Fuel Quality Directive (2015/1513), established by the EU in September 2015, demands the inclusion of indirect land use change (iLUC) factors in reporting by fuel suppliers and Member States of greenhouse gas savings of biofuels and bioliquids. The added Annex VII of the Renewable Energy Directivve includes estimated indirect land-use change emissions from biofuels (gCO2eq/MJ) as follows:

  • Cereals and other starch rich crops, 12
  • Sugars, 13
  • Oil crops, 55

Other feedstocks (e.g. residues and wastes) were considered to have a value of 0. iLUC values were not applied for feedstocks where direct land use change emissions have already been calculated.

The proposals allow for iLUC factors to be added, disaggregated or amended to allow for new feedstocks, such as energy crops, or more detailed scientific data.

European Parliament Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety: Workshop on Sustainable Biofuels: addressing indirect land use change (iLUC) (February 2013)

View presentations by organisations represented at the workshop including European Biodiesel Board, ePure, COPA-COGECA, Transport & Environment, Oxfam, Roundtable on sustainable Biofuels, JRC, International Council on Clean Transportation, International Food Policy Research Institute, OECD, Air Resources Board, California, and Imperial College London

European Parliament Workshop on Biofuels and Indirect Land Use Change (January 2012)

In anticipation of the release of the European Commission's impact assessment on 'indirect land use change (iLUC) related to biofuels and bioliquids on greenhouse gas emissions and addressing ways to minimize it', the Coordinators of the ENVI Committee organised a workshop on this issue (view workshop proceedings - including presentations, discussion & conclusions). The workshop in January 2012 consisted of different presentations and an exchange of views with Members and established experts in the area of biofuels and iLUC.

EBTP Consensus Paper on iLUC

In October 2011 an iLUC paper was produced by the former WG5 of the EBTP (now WG4 Policy and Sustainability). In the context of the discussion around indirect land use change for biofuels, the European Biofuels Technology Platform holds the view that there is an opportunity for the EU to signal its support to policies that further enhance the deployment of advanced biofuels.

EBTP Views on iLUC (74 Kb)

Also see the pdf2016 EBTP Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA) (7.5 Mb)


Issues surrounding the complexity of iLUC modelling

See the ETIP Bioenergy Reports Database for recent papers and reports on iLUC research and policy implementation

In September 2013, EBB released a study carried out by Air Improvement Resource, (S&T)2 Consultants, and the University of Illinois. The study Land Use Change Greenhouse Gas Emissions of European Biofuel Policies Utilizing the Global Trade Analysis Project (GTAP) Model showed that iLUC effects calculated by the GTAP model were far lower than those calculated by IFPRI. This is largely due to differing assumptions about the conversion of forestry land and yields of new crop land.

While, in May 2011, the report Indirect Effects of Biofuels Production produced for GBEP suggested that the Low Indirect Impact Biofuels approach (Ecofys et al) may offer pragmatic solutions by mitigating biofuels production effects at the local level.

In March 2011, IEEP published a report Anticipated Indirect Land Use Change Associated with Expanded Use of Biofuels and Bioliquids in the EU – An Analysis of the National Renewable Energy Action Plans. This report attempts to quantify iLUC impacts, and was prepared for ActionAid, BirdLife International, ClientEarth, European Environmental Bureau, FERN, Friends of the Earth Europe, Greenpeace, Transport & Environment and Wetlands International.

In February 2011, a report to the European Parliament by Oeko Institute suggested that "current scientific knowledge allows deriving a valid quantitative approximation for GHG emissions from iLUC effects which can be differentiated for various biofuels." This raised the possibility of iLUC factors being applied when calculating the "GHG reduction value" of biofuels from various crops or feedstocks (e.g. oil crops, wheat, sugar, wastes, etc). Dutch policy makers suggested using a generic iLUC factor until further crop-specific research was carried out.

On the other side of the debate, a study Indirect land use change for biofuels: Testing predictions and improving analytical methodologies published in May 2011 in Biomass and Bioenergy [Volume 35, Issue 7, July 2011, Pages 3235-3240] suggests historical data shows no impirical correlation between increases in biofuels production and land use changes for soy and corn production in US trading partners.

A pragmatic report by Greenergy 'Measuring Indirect Land Use Change from Biofuels' updated in March 2011, discusses how BioCarbon Tracker, a web platform (based on satellite imagery) can be used to show where carbon reserves are located, and which are most at risk from agricultural expansion.

"By presenting a “big picture” of land use change, BioCarbon Tracker can provide valuable input to the iLUC debate. BioCarbon Tracker will provide interactive maps of biocarbon stored in vegetation (trees, shrubs, grasses) and soil. It will identify where biocarbon is at risk from agricultural expansion and monitor changes in high risk areas. BioCarbon Tracker will also identify opportunities for increasing biocarbon through improved land management and ecosystem restoration." [Source Greenergy]

In July 2010, The EC launched a public consultation on iLUC and Biofuels.
This followed publication of a number of EC studies on this topic:

pdf - 2 MB Study "Global Trade and Environmental Impact Study of the EU Biofuels Mandate"

pdf - 2 MB Study "Impacts of the EU biofuel target on agricultural markets and land use"

An extensive literature review on iLUC has been carried out by E4Tech as part of a wider iLUC Study, commissioned by the UK Department of Transport. This covers first generation biofuels including: bioethanol from wheat, bioethanol from sugarcane, biodiesel from palm and biodiesel from rapeseed.

The indirect effect of biofuels has been the subject of a number of influential reports, including the Renewable Fuels Agency Review of the Indirect Effects of Biofuels (a.k.a. The Gallagher Report), which led to a change in biofuels policy in the UK in 2008.

Other relevant reports include Biofuels on the Dutch Market commissioned by BirdLife Europe, Transport & Environment, the European Environmental Bureau and the Dutch NGO Natuur & Milieu. The report, published in February 2013, ranks oil companies in the Netherlands to compare the environmental performance of the biofuels sold by the various fuel suppliers and rank them based on the average greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (direct and indirect) of their biofuel blends in 2011. The aim is to identify differences in the companies’ performance and raise the awareness of Dutch consumers. The data were compiled by the Dutch Emissions Authority (NEa), which publishes a selection of the results. The first report, with data for 2011, was published in 2012. The Netherlands is the second EU country (after the United Kingdom) to make data on biofuels publically available.

Previously, iLUC was also a central theme of the report Biofuels - Handle with Care, jointly published in November 2009 by BirdLife European Division, European Environmental Bureau, FERN, Friends of the Earth Europe, Oxfam International, and Transport and Environment

An IEA Bioenergy Workshop on the Impact of iLUC was held in May 2009 in conjunction with ExCo63 , including expert presentations on this issue.