Synopsis of current models and methods applicable to indirect land use change (ILUC)

(868 Kb)

The discussion on sustainability criteria for bioenergy, which has been conducted with great ferocity over the last two years, is gradually getting closer to defining a set of basic principles. This was also reflected in the European Directive on the Promotion of the Use of Energy from Renewable Sources (2009/28/EC) at the end of April 2009.

Indirect land use change (ILUC) is the aspect where the available data and the applicability still leave the most important questions unanswered in this respect. Article 19 (6) of the Directive thus stipulates that the European Commission is to submit a report that analyses this situation by the end of 2010 (but it will most likely be ready prior to March 2010) and, if possible, proposes a concrete methodology for taking greenhouse gas emissions caused by indirect land use changes (ILUC) into account based on the best scientific knowledge available.

This type of approach was incorporated into legal regulations for the first time in California in March 2009 (LCFS 2009). The US EPA (2009) also submitted a proposal in May, the implementation of which, however, was obstructed by a five-year moratorium arising from an agreement in the House of Representatives on 24 June 2009. The proposal will be subject to a scientific review in the meantime. Because there are so many of these processes, the debate about the "best possible" method for evaluating the ILUC will intensify in both the European and international context. Contributions to this debate are both necessary and desirable from every group involved in this intrinsically very complex and (potentially) politically far-reaching issue.

Against this background, the BDBe commissioned the IFEU to create this synopsis. This study primarily aims to survey and assess current models and methods used to account for the effects of indirect land use changes. The strengths and weaknesses of each approach are analyzed, development possibilities for further policy goals determined and fields of action identified in this process.

To sum up, there are three distinct basic approaches to ILUC calculation which may be of relevance to further discussions on this issue:

  • Complex macro-economic/econometric and/or biophysical models
    Models such as GTAP, FASOM, FAPRI, etc., which are primarily used for legislation in the US and California; the scientific basis relating to ILUC is provided by Searchinger et al. (2008), Kim et al. (2009), Plevin (2008).
  • Simplified deterministic approaches
    Approaches such as the ILUC factor (Fritsche 2007, 2009) or the bonus accordingto the European Directive on Renewable Energy Sources (2009/28/EC)
  • Other approaches which strike a balance between these two approaches (Lywood 2009, FoE 2008)
  • Approaches that focus on ILUC risk minimization (Dehue 2009, Eickhout 2008)
IFEU - commissioned by BDBe
(868 Kb)