Climate change and co-benefits
Different benefits can be associated to low- ILUC production agricultural systems. These are associated to climate change mitigation measures such as carbon sequestration on soil, to sustainability co-benefits like reduced use of pesticides and improvement of biodiversity in alternative lands, as well as environmental, social and economic co-benefits.
The EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (‘RED II’) recognises the potential for biofuel feedstock production to enhance the carbon stock of agricultural soils as a measure for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. The RED II’s formula for calculating biofuels’ lifecycle emissions considers “emission savings from soil carbon accumulation via improved agricultural management” (esca). These improved agricultural management practices include “Shifting to reduced or zero-tillage, improved crop/rotation, the use of cover crops, including crop residue management, and the use of organic soil improver (e.g. compost, manure fermentation, digestate, biochar, etc.)”
Soil carbon practices to a low ILUC-risk ‘additionality measure’ could qualify biofuel feedstock for low ILUC-risk certification.
The low ILUC-risk concept is founded on an ‘additionality’ principle:
certification may be granted to projects only if they are implementing new and/or improved farm practices, and only if these practices go beyond business-as-usual management. Assessment of the last point is conducted through an ‘additionality test’, which requires that a project.
While biofuel feedstock production comes with some risks, it also offers genuine opportunities for biodiversity and nature restoration.
This is particularly apparent when considering low ILUC-risk projects which introduce crop production embedded in a sustainable agricultural model to unused land or abandoned agricultural land, in order to harvest additional biomass for energy without competing with food and feed production.
This type of low ILUC-risk project may be implemented on:
Currently, the low ILUC-risk terminology is exclusive to energy policy. If a common language can be developed to link low ILUC-risk projects with projects to deliver additional agricultural production at minimal sustainability risk more generally, this could allow low ILUC-risk to become a vehicle to demonstrate and implement agricultural ideas that will become important in the wider agricultural economy and will bring additional benefits to the biofuels sector as well.
References/links in BIKE website and others: