Repairing What Policy Is Missing Out on: A Constructive View on Prospects and Preconditions for Sustainable Biobased Economy Options to Mitigate and Adapt to Climate Change
- Increasing the use of biomass waste streams and residues is, to a large extent, impossible because increasing their use will generally compete with already existing applications, thus leading to displacement effects. Specifically for forest biomass, the focus is on the (perceived) long carbon-payback times, and on the negative impacts on biodiversity, leading to pleas to look at forests only as a carbon storage option and not a source of biomass.
- The use of solar and wind energy is preferred over biomass use, making the role of biomass in the future energy supply marginal and unnecessary.
- The additional production of biomass via crops and using land will have two key negative effects: one is the displacement of current land use (either for food production or as nature areas) and the other is that intensified land use (e.g., to increase productivity) will lead to more agricultural emissions, water use and negative impacts on biodiversity. Furthermore, increased pressure on land can lead to increased food prices, land grabbing and the displacement of the current land owners (farmers).
2. Biomass Supplies: Land-Use Scenarios and Potential for Biomass
2.1. Global Level
2.2. European Level
2.3. Factors That Are Given Limited Attention in Biomass Resource Potential Studies: Aquatic Biomass, Alternative Protein Supplies, Limiting Food Waste
3. Sustainable Biomass Production Systems and Their Impacts
3.1. Examples of Integrated Studies of Biomass Resource Potential including iLUC Prevention
3.2. Forest Management Biomass Resources and GHG Mitigation
3.3. Use of Marginal, Under-Utilized, Saline Lands, Degraded Lands and Contaminated Lands
3.4. Volumes of Waste Biomass and Displacement
3.5. Indirect Land-Use Change, iLUC and Avoiding iLUC and Displacement
4. The Demand Side: The Role of Bio-Based Options in Energy and Circular Economy System Scenarios
4.1. The Implications on Implementation and Costs of Mitigation Pathways with and without BBE Options
5. Policies versus Preconditions: An Action Agenda for Positive Action
- Assessments in the recent literature, as summarized in this paper, show that the resource potential of biomass for energy in the European Union may reach well over 20 EJ/yr (478 Mtoe) by 2050. This includes potential future land availability in Europe, which can materialize when yield gaps are (partly) closed and efficiency improvements in livestock are realized; moreover, 7–52 Mha of arable land and 10–19 Mha of pasture lands could be released in Europe, while meeting future food demand. However, uncertainty exists about important factors such as market and policy conditions that affect this potential. Realizing this potential represents a major challenge but would make a substantial contribution to the EU’s primary energy demand in 2050 of one third of total energy supplies.
- State-of-the-art energy and GHG mitigation scenarios suggest that whatever biomass resources are available, they will be used for the various markets mentioned; given the attractive economic performance, biomass use generally lowers overall mitigation costs. An additional driver for biomass deployment is the possibility to deliver negative emissions when the conversion of biomass is combined with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). Many recent scenario analyses point out that such options are necessary to achieve the 1.5–2 °C GMT change target set in the Paris Agreement. The increased technical possibilities provide very good economic prospects for using biomass in future low (zero-to-negative)-emission industries and fuel production with BECCS, and thus, achieving negative emissions. Certain current systems and key future options—including perennial crops, forest products and biomass residues, and waste used in advanced conversion technologies for next-generation biofuels and biochemicals, as well as well-managed first-generation biofuels—can deliver very good GHG mitigation performance, typically with an 80- >90% reduction compared to the fossil-energy baseline. The remaining emissions can be lowered using GHG-neutral energy carriers for agricultural management and agrochemical inputs as a result of the overall decarbonization of the energy system and economy. To achieve such desired impacts and performance, land-use conversion and forest management should enable losses of carbon stocks and indirect land-use change (ILUC) to be avoided, or conversely, carbon stocks to increase over time.
- In order to achieve the high potential deployment levels of biomass for energy without negative displacement effects, increases in competing food and fiber demand must be moderate, land must be properly managed and agricultural and forestry yields must increase substantially, e.g., by improving forest management practices. The expansion of bioenergy in the absence of monitoring and good governance of land use carries the risk of significant conflicts with respect to food supplies, water resources and biodiversity, as well as a risk of low greenhouse gas (GHG) benefits. Conversely, the implementation that follows effective sustainability frameworks could mitigate such conflicts and allow the realization of positive outcomes (for example, in rural development, cleaner and more sustainable agriculture, land amelioration and climate change mitigation, including opportunities to combine adaptation measures). The adaptation to climate change with respect to maintaining and increasing vegetation cover, increasing water-retention functions, avoiding and reversing erosion and salinity and creating more resilient forests and agricultural systems will become increasingly important in the coming decades, when climate change will come with increased and more severe impacts. Increased biomass availability can be an important side-effect of such measures, also improving the economic viability of such (unavoidable) measures.
Revisiting the EU Policies with Respect to Biobased Economy
- The importance of strategies and the valuation of the synergies between biomass production and use and other sustainable-development priorities (better agriculture, the management of natural resources, the adaptation to climate change, the circular economy, the affordability of the energy transition and climate change mitigation, and rural development) should be at the core of different combined-policy agendas (agriculture, energy, climate, environment and rural development).
- The importance of having biobased options as a key component of the toolbox to mitigate and adapt to climate change, most notably for industry, the circular economy and transport fuels, as well as providing energy security on a European level.
- Focus should shift from quantifying potential iLUC and displacement risks to mitigation of those risks and enhancing sustainable biomass resource availability. The perspective in standards and rules needs to shift from hedging problems to achieving synergies (governance of land use) and incentivizing practices that prevent or mitigate ILUC.
- The importance of both a good value-chain design and how this fits optimally in a biomass production region in conjunction with other land uses, and achieving win–wins, as discussed, are to be integrated into the RED and the Common Agricultural Policy of the EU. After all, modernization and improving the efficiency and environmental performance of conventional agriculture (and livestock) are essential in themselves, but are also a key preconditions for securing more sustainable biomass.
- No/minimal iLUCs and displacement-risk biomass should be secured via proper monitoring of the overall land use and by enhancing productivity in producing regions.
- Flexible biomass feedstock production in relation to fluctuation yields and market demand can become a stabilizing factor in different key markets covering food and biobased commodities, both existing and new.
- Such approaches should be included in certification schemes combined with regional/national monitoring and intervention options. Certification driven by the demand for sustainable biobased commodities sets the pace for conventional agriculture and forestry and provides a lever for improvements. Certain regions and countries can also be excluded the moment required governance is not up to standards.
- The definition of sustainable biomass categories needs to be revised according to the findings presented here. The focus should not be on biomass categories as such, but on the settings in which the biomass sourcing is conducted and how the combined impacts of improved land use, forest management and sourcing turn out on a regional level. With proper sustainability frameworks, synergetic benefits can be the main result. The mitigation of iLUC fits the state-of-the-art sustainability frameworks (covering regions and settings as argued by the FAO and covered, to some extent, by the Roundtable for Sustainable Biofuels [36,86,87]).
- Short term in demonstration schemes should be invested in; “show how” examples are very important in the short term: these can be pilots/demonstrations in selected regions with a size of, e.g., 100,000 hectares that demonstrate how the integrated approaches can be implemented, monitored and scaled-up in different settings.
- The lesson learned from the previous biofuel support schemes, which combined fixed-volume targets with subsidies, is that such policies should be combined with supporting measures to avoid competition for land and other natural resources. Innovation in biomass sourcing interlinked with better management and increased productivity of forest, land and agriculture should be at the heart of such policies. Furthermore, any future targets should be made dependent on the rate of improvement that can be achieved in agricultural and forest management.
- Open biomass and biomass-derived commodity markets and international trade will facilitate developments on European and global scales.
- Schemes such as those mentioned are important and should become fully part of the Green EU Taxonomy.
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Conflicts of Interest
|BECCS||Bioenergy carbon capture and storage.|
|CCS||Carbon capture and storage|
|CGE||Computable general equilibrium (model)|
|ETC||Energy transition commission|
|GMT||Global mean temperature change|
|IEA||International Energy Agency|
|iLUC||Indirect Land-use Change.|
|IRENA||International Renewable Energy Agency|
|IPCC||Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change|
|Mtoe||Million-ton oil equivalent|
|RED||Renewable energy directive|
|SSP||Shared socio-economic pathway (scenarios)|
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|Cultivated biomass||7–52 Mha arable land|
10–19 Mha pasture land
|Biomass waste streams||N.A.||1.7–5||40–119|
|Net Agri-Changes a||Net Agri-Changes a||Net Agri-Changes a||Net Bioenergy Changes b||Net Agri-Changes a||Net Bioenergy Changes b|
|LUC c |
(change in natural vegetation)
|GHG emissions d||−−||−||++||++||+||+||++||++||+||+|
|Biodiversity e (change in species abundance)||−−||−||+||+/−||+||+/−|
|Water use f||−−||−−||+/−||−||−||−||+||−−||−−||−−|
|Net Present Value |
|Main Product||Primary Biomass Allocated (EJ)||Net Energy Conversion Efficiency (%)||Final Energy (or Product) (EJ)|
|Biofuels (second-generation ethanol, DME, Fischer–Tropsch)||3.15||15.6||65||2.0||10|
|Electricity (larger scale)||1.05||1.2||50||0.5||0.6|
|Heat (larger scale and industrial)||1.75||0||90||1.6||0|
|Large scale biorefinery complexes||0.35 (18 Mton)||4.8 (246 Mton)||50||0.2 (5.4 Mton)||2.4 (74 Mton)||(*)|
|Main Product||GHG Emissions, |
Biomass Value Chains (Mton CO2 eq/yr)
|Avoided Emissions, Fossil Reference Products (Mton CO2 eq/yr)||Net Avoided Emissions (Mton CO2 eq/yr) |
(Low Impact Defined as Higher-Emission Biomass Value Chain + Low Deployment; High Impact Defined as Lower-Emission Biomass Value Chains + High Deployment
|Biofuels (second-generation ethanol, DME, Fischer–Tropsch)||51||71||205||1014||154||943|
|Electricity (larger scale)||25||0||84||96||59||96|
|Heat (larger scale and industrial)||24||0||145||0||121||0|
|Carbon stock increase (average Mton per year up to 2050) (based on .||13||52|
|Total net mitigation impact||379||2177|
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Faaij, A.P.C. Repairing What Policy Is Missing Out on: A Constructive View on Prospects and Preconditions for Sustainable Biobased Economy Options to Mitigate and Adapt to Climate Change. Energies 2022, 15, 5955. https://doi.org/10.3390/en15165955
Faaij APC. Repairing What Policy Is Missing Out on: A Constructive View on Prospects and Preconditions for Sustainable Biobased Economy Options to Mitigate and Adapt to Climate Change. Energies. 2022; 15(16):5955. https://doi.org/10.3390/en15165955Chicago/Turabian Style
Faaij, André P. C. 2022. "Repairing What Policy Is Missing Out on: A Constructive View on Prospects and Preconditions for Sustainable Biobased Economy Options to Mitigate and Adapt to Climate Change" Energies 15, no. 16: 5955. https://doi.org/10.3390/en15165955