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Driving to destruction: The impacts of Europe’s biofuel plans on carbon emissions and land

Publication - November 8, 2010
A new study analyses the likely impacts on land use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of biofuel use by 2020, as projected in recently published National Renewable Energy Action Plans (NREAPs) in 23 EU member states. The analysis includes evidence on size and impacts of ‘indirect land use change’ (ILUC) resulting from biofuel use.

Executive summary: It is the most comprehensive study to date to quantify these effects. Previous attempts were not based on projections from NREAPs and in most cases excluded the effects of indirect land use change. The assessment comes at a key time for EU biofuel policy, with the European Commission due to report on how to address and minimise these emissions by the end of this year.

The study reveals that the EU’s plans for biofuels will result in the conversion of up to 69 000 square kilometres (km2) of land to agricultural use due to ILUC. This will potentially put forests, other natural ecosystems, and poor communities at risk. Land conversion on such a scale will lead to the release of carbon emissions from vegetation and soil, making biofuels more damaging to the climate than the fossil fuels they are designed to replace.

Num. pages: 4