Future GHG emissions more efficiently controlled by land-use policies than by bioenergy sustainability criteria


  • EU policy targets. Demand and supply dynamics under the perspective of stakeholders - IEE 08 653 SI2. 529 241,, funded by the European Union's Intelligent Energy Programme

Correspondence to: Hannes Böttcher, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Laxenburg, Austria. E-mail:


The EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED) targets, implemented to achieve climate change mitigation, affect the level of agricultural production in the EU and in the rest of the world. This article presents an impact assessment of increased biomass supply under different sustainability constraints on land use and resulting total GHG emissions at global and EU level. We apply GLOBIOM, a global partial equilibrium model integrating the agricultural, livestock, bioenergy and forestry sectors based on geographically explicit modeling of supply under prescribed demand. According to the model, global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture and land-use change (LUC) are anticipated to rise significantly up to 2030 due to various drivers (among others: GDP and population, diet shifts, and also bioenergy demand) despite basic sustainability criteria implemented by the RED (Reference scenario). Applying additional criteria, mainly protecting biodiversity outside the EU, overall GHG emissions can be reduced by 5% in 2030 compared to the Reference. Deforestation area decreases in this scenario slightly due to exclusion of high biodiversity forests but also due to increasing demand for energy wood that makes forests more valuable. If, however, in addition, deforestation is prevented through effective land-use policies, global GHG emissions can be reduced by 20% (compared to the Reference scenario). We conclude that sustainability criteria applied to biofuel production and imports only, do not mitigate potential negative impacts on total GHG emissions effectively. Unsustainable biomass production in sectors not covered by the bioenergy criteria can be best avoided by targeting deforestation and biodiversity loss directly. © 2013 Society of Chemical Industry and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd