Biomass is often seen as a key component of future energy systems as it can be used for heat and electricity production, as a transport fuel, and a feedstock for chemicals. Furthermore, it can be used in combination with carbon capture and storage to provide so-called “negative emissions”. At the same time, however, its production will require land, possibly impacting food security, land-based carbon stocks, and other environmental services. Thus, the strategies adopted in the supply, conversion, and use of biomass have a significant impact on its effectiveness as a climate change mitigation measure. We use the IMAGE 3.0 integrated assessment model to project three different global, long term scenarios spanning different socioeconomic futures with varying rates of population growth, economic growth, and technological change, and investigate the role of biomass in meeting strict climate targets.
Using these scenarios we highlight different possibilities for biomass supply and demand, and provide insights on the requirements and challenges for the effective use of this resource as a climate change mitigation measure.
The results show that in scenarios meeting the 1.5 °C target, biomass could exceed 20% of final energy consumption, or 115–180 EJPrim/yr in 2050. Such a supply of bioenergy can only be achieved without extreme levels land use change if agricultural yields improve significantly and effective land zoning is implemented. Furthermore, the results highlight that strict mitigation targets are contingent on the availability of advanced technologies such as lignocellulosic fuels and carbon capture and storage.