A Guide for the Perplexed to the Indirect Effects of Biofuels Production
Understanding options for ILUC mitigation
Indirect land use change (ILUC) is land use change that occurs when existing cropland is used to cover the feedstock demand of additional biofuel or bioenergy production. ILUC results in the displacement of other agricultural production activities onto land with carbon stocks or other existing provisioning services. In European biofuel policy, ILUC has been debated for many years due to potentially high greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with it and due to the high uncertainty in quantifying those emissions for different types of feedstocks.
The use of low indirect impact—or low ILUC—biofuels has been suggested as a way to mitigate ILUC caused by bioenergy and biofuel production in post-2020 EU renewable energy policy. This would be additional to sustainability safeguards in the existing legislation that are seen by some stakeholders as insufficient. In particular, the ILUC Directive (EU) 2015/1513 (European Parliament, 2015), which came into force in 2015, outlines the potential to define and certify low ILUC biofuels through the use of certification schemes.
However, the concept of low indirect impact or “no displacement” biofuels, even though described through several measures and methodologies, is still in its infancy stage, and would require supplementary requirements and risk analyses if it were to be included in a new European legislation as an additional sustainability criterion for the production of biofuels and bioenergy post-2020.