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Bioenergy and land use change—state of the art

Authors

  • Göran Berndes,

    Corresponding author
    • Department of Energy and Environment, Physical Resource Theory, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden
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  • Serina Ahlgren,

    1. Department of Technology and Society, Environmental and Energy Systems Studies, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
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  • Pål Börjesson,

    1. Department of Energy and Environment, Physical Resource Theory, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden
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  • Annette L. Cowie

    1. Rural Climate Solutions—A partnership between University of New England and New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, University of New England, New South Wales, Australia
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Correspondence to: goran.berndes@chalmers.se

Abstract

Bioenergy projects can lead to direct and indirect land use change (LUC), which can substantially affect greenhouse gas balances with both beneficial and adverse outcomes for bioenergy's contribution to climate change mitigation. The causes behind LUC are multiple, complex, interlinked, and change over time. This makes quantification uncertain and sensitive to many factors that can develop in different directions—including land use productivity, trade patterns, prices and elasticities, and use of by-products associated with biofuels production. Quantifications reported so far vary substantially and do not support the ranking of bioenergy options with regard to LUC and associated emissions. There are however several options for mitigating these emissions, which can be implemented despite the uncertainties. Long-rotation forest management is associated with carbon emissions and sequestration that are not in temporal balance with each other and this leads to mitigation trade-offs between biomass extraction for energy use and the alternative to leave the biomass in the forest. Bioenergy's contribution to climate change mitigation needs to reflect a balance between near-term targets and the long-term objective to hold the increase in global temperature below 2°C (Copenhagen Accord). Although emissions from LUC can be significant in some circumstances, the reality of such emissions is not sufficient reason to exclude bioenergy from the list of worthwhile technologies for climate change mitigation. Policy measures to minimize the negative impacts of LUC should be based on a holistic perspective recognizing the multiple drivers and effects of LUC.

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