In 2009, the European Union launched an ambitious program to promote the use of renewable fuels in EU transport. By 2020, 10% of energy used in transport in each Member State has to be produced from renewable energy sources, such as biofuels, biogas, electricity or other renewable sources. Also, fuel suppliers have to reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of fuels supplied to the EU with 6%, measured throughout the supply chain from oil well to car wheel. Both policy measures lead to an increase in biofuel production in the EU, sourced from oilseeds (rapeseed, sunflower), cereals (wheat, corn) or sugar beet. It also stimulates imports of biofuels from other regions of the world (e.g. produced from palm oil or sugar cane).
In order to ensure a sustainable production of biofuels, the EU introduced, also in 2009, the world’s first set of mandatory sustainability criteria for biofuels. These criteria include measures to prevent negative sustainability impacts directly related to biofuel production. In recent years, indirect sustainability effects of biofuel production have been debated, in particular Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) associated with biofuel production. The central question is what the consequences are from an increased demand for biofuels. This increased demand leads to a price increase of agricultural crops used for biofuels which has several consequences. Firstly, it can drive increased yields, secondly, it might lead to reduced consumption of food and feed and thirdly, it can lead to an increase in arable land elsewhere in the world to accommodate the additional demand. The third consequence is Indirect Land Use Change. Non-agricultural land (e.g. grasslands, forests) is converted into agricultural land, which can lead to a loss of carbon stocks and increased greenhouse gas emissions. Increased emissions due to land use change lead to a decrease in the overall greenhouse gas emission savings from biofuels. ILUC has been subject to several studies and consultations.
The European Commission has asked a consortium of Ecofys, IIASA and E4tech to further investigate the ILUC effect. The project started in summer 2013 and will result in the modelling of ILUC related GHG emissions resulting from increased consumption of biofuels in the EU. The GLOBIOM model, developed by IIASA, will be used for this purpose and before the actual modelling will take place, GLOBIOM will be improved following stakeholder consultations with the aim to go beyond the current state-of-the-art and perform the project in a transparent, inclusive manner. A scientific Advisory Committee is established to advise the project consortium.