IFPRI-MIRAGE 2011 modeling of indirect land use change

The key points relevant to the ongoing biofuel policy discussion:

  • European biofuels mandates are likely to cause significant indirect land use change emissions. IFPRI calculates an average for the policy of about 38 g CO2e/MJ. Using improved estimates for the 20-year impact of peat degradation, we suggest that this figure should rise to about 50 g CO2/MJ.
  • With ILUC emissions on that scale, without action to reduce ILUC the EU biofuels mandate will in all likelihood deliver no net climate change mitigation benefit.
  • Biodiesel has much higher ILUC than ethanol in the modeling. Based on IFPRI’s results, biodiesel from rapeseed, soy, sunflower or palm is more emissions intensive than fossil diesel. Sugar- and cereal-based ethanol production, however, could potentially deliver 50% net carbon reductions.
  • A large fraction of carbon emissions, especially for biodiesel, come from peat degradation in Indonesia and Malaysia. Effective peat protection in these countries would substantially improve the emissions profile of biodiesel (though it would still seem unlikely that biodiesel would meet a 50% net carbon reduction target).
  • The 2010 IFPRI model used an unrealistic split between ethanol and diesel. The new modeling uses the split specified in the national Renewable Energy Action Plans.
  • The model includes effects from price led yield increase, displacement of animal feed with co-products (DDGS and oil meals) and reduction in food demand.
  • If food demand is held constant, the emissions increase by about 20%.
  • IFPRI notes that there are limitations to the ability of CGE models to reflect some of the detailed dynamics of agricultural systems. They also note that the results are inevitably subject to substantial uncertainty.
  • In the report, IFPRI does not recommend the application of ILUC factors. They do, however, recommend measures to shift demand from biodiesel to ethanol.
  • Within the context of measures to shift demand from biodiesel to ethanol, IFPRI is supportive of raising the direct GHG savings threshold, and potentially reducing the mandate.
Feedstock Modeled ILUC (gCO2e/MJ)
Wheat 14
Maize 10
Sugar beet 7
Sugar cane 15
Soy 56
Sunflower 54
Rapeseed 55
Palm 54


Further information: Chris Malins, ICCT fuels program lead,

You can also read our more detailed critical assessment of the IFPRI MIRAGE model here.


Life-cycle analyses