Mitigating the impacts of biofuel production

12 October 2010 | News story

IUCN and Shell are working with a wide range of stakeholders to gain a shared understanding of how to mitigate the impacts of biofuel production caused by indirect land use change.

IUCN and Shell organized an ILUC workshop at Chatham House in London, convening a range of stakeholders including regulators, agricultural commodity producers, biofuels producers and suppliers, research institutes and environmental NGOs. The objective was to gain a shared understanding of how to effectively mitigate against ILUC risks from biofuel production. The workshop concluded that viable options to mitigate ILUC risks currently exist for feedstock producers (e.g. choosing appropriate feedstocks, use of co-products, residues, integrated land use), elsewhere along the supply chain (e.g. sourcing low-ILUC feedstocks, conversion optimisation, new conversion technologies), and at broader levels (e.g. performance-based policies, strategic land use planning). Appropriate policy frameworks are then required to ensure that these opportunities are realised and ILUC is addressed on the ground.

The workshop outcomes (see workshop report) are being used to inform IUCN’s recommendations for the European Commission’s public consultation on indirect land use change and biofuels, taking place until October 31st 2010.

Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) refers to changes in land use that arise from the displacement of an existing land use practice as a result of the adoption of a new land use practice. This can occur at the local level with the displacement of human uses of a given resource or ecosystem service; or at the global level via increased demand for agricultural commodities which then triggers increased supply in national, regional or global markets.

As a small but expanding contributor to increased agricultural demand and associated production, biofuels have come under scrutiny for their potential to cause ILUC. Pre-existing land uses (cropping, grazing, or other) may be displaced by crops for biofuels to other lands that, in some cases, may be forested lands, peatlands, or grasslands. This displacement impacts on people and biodiversity, in addition to potentially altering the greenhouse gas emissions balance of the biofuel.

Assuming that biofuels-related ILUC is caused by increased demand for agricultural commodities for biofuels markets, the main ways of mitigating against the ILUC risk involve increasing supplies of those commodities without displacing existing production and uses to other lands. The best outcome is to ensure proactively that ILUC does not occur, as a result of biofuels, or any other agriculture expansion activities likely to take place as populations grow towards 9 billion. We urgently need to find ways of mitigating against ILUC risks and promote these measures in biofuels policies and practices.
For more information see IUCN webpage and video on ILUC.

IUCN and Shell signed a five-year agreement in 2007 to collaborate more effectively on conservation-related projects. More information on IUCN Shell partnership.

This image shows the courtship behavior of Indian Bull frogs (Holobatrachus tigerinus). During the monsoon, the breeding males become bright yellow in color, while females remain dull. The prominent blue vocal sacs of male produce strong nasal mating call.