Bio-energy has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Indirect effects might partly or even completely undo this advantage. Indirect land use change (ILUC) – leading to emissions and loss of nature – is an important example, but there are other indirect effects, as well.
Indirect effects of bio-energy worrisome
Indirect greenhouse gas emissions
Bio-energy has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Indirect effects might partly or even completely undo this advantage. Production and consumption of bio-energy products, such as biofuels for transport, cause several indirect effects through their interactions with the global economic and physical systems. Indirect land use change, leading to emissions and loss of nature, is an important example, but there are other indirect effects as well. Intensification of agricultural production, in general, is a way to minimise undesirable land conversion. However, intensification through increased fertiliser use can also lead to high GHG emissions. The focus of intensification should be on improving the efficiency in fertiliser use.
Indirect effects and sustainability criteria
The direct effects of bio-energy are measurable and they are the responsibility of the producers. Indirect effects are less easy to quantify and more difficult to ascribe to producers or consumers, because they occur beyond their control. Therefore, in contrast to many direct effects, indirect effects are not included in present sustainability criteria of EU policy. Including indirect effects in these criteria is complicated, because these effects – as opposed to direct effects – vary in space and time, due to the dynamic character of global systems.
More information on indirect effects
- The contribution of by-products to the sustainability of biofuels
- Indirect effects of biofuels: intensification of agricultural production
- Are models suitable for determining ILUC factors?
- Evaluation of the indirect effects of biofuel production on biodiversity: assessment across spatial and temporal scales
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