EU experts debate shortcomings of ILUC factors, calculations

By The European Biodiesel Board | May 16, 2013

Last week at the European Parliament on the evaluation of indirect land use change (ILUC) and life cycle assessment (LCA), Prof. Matthias Finkbeiner, Chair of Sustainable Engineering and Vice-Director of Environmental Technology at Technical University of Berlin, warned against strong uncertainty surrounding economic modeling, highlighting that “there is broad consensus in the scientific community that the current ILUC estimations are misleading.”

 In his recent study, comparing scientific robustness of ILUC models and their consistency with international GHG emission calculation standards, Finkbeiner provides a broad overview of loopholes and weaknesses that put reliance on estimated ILUC factors’ use for policy-making into question. Among others, the study concludes that:

-ILUC modeling is highly uncertain due to the immaturity of the discipline

-there are systematic and structural deficiencies in the models

-macroeconomic models remain nontransparent and are merely based on assumptions as regards use of land data and land use activity, understanding of regional characteristics and production of coproducts

-none of the relevant international standards on the use of LCA and carbon foot printing are compatible with the inclusion of ILUC factors

-the ranges of ILUC values found in the existing literature vary enormously, indicating that ILUC factors are an inappropriate tool for decision-making

-focus and efforts should be directed towards a proactive mitigation strategy for improving agricultural practices, especially in nonEU countries

Prof. André Faaij, from Copernicus Institute for Sustainable Development of the Utrecht University, stated that it would make more sense to prefer a regionalized approach based on increased efficiency in agriculture throughout the supply chain and good governance of land use at the sourcing regions, while integrating food, feed and fuel production. “ILUC is a reactive concept while we actually want to be proactive,” Faaij said. “Defining ILUC factors has received the most attention, but very limited focus is put on the mitigation of ILUC.” ILUC factors do not stimulate good practices, which can combine better and more efficient and sustainable farming with improved availability of land for biomass production. Such an approach would avoid conflicts with food supplies and other land uses, including the occurrence of ILUC.

Against this background, the European Biodiesel Board and the EU Vegetable Oil and Protein Meal Industry (FEDIOL) welcome the draft report published by MEP Vidal Quadras, Rapporteur for the EP Industry and Energy Committee, which seeks pragmatic ILUC mitigation practices while safeguarding existing and future investments.

The commission legislative proposal, based on uncertain ILUC factors, would only put green investments and the emergence of an EU bioeconomy into jeopardy, while threatening investor confidence at a time of economic crisis. 


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