British Government to Study Indirect Impacts of Biofuels

Biofuels & Climate Change

Last week, Britain’s Renewable Fuels Agency (RFA) launched a series of studies of the indirect land-use impacts of biofuels, following a lecture by Princeton’s Tim Searchinger, lead author of “Use of U.S. Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases Through Emissions from Land Use Change” published in Science in February.

The RFA intends to publish a draft report in May, prior to negotiation of EU-wide biofuels targets to 2020 in Brussels later this year. Britain is set to enforce its requirement that fuels contain 2.5% biofuels beginning next month, although environmental groups are calling for a complete moratorium.

The three studies being conducted by the Agency will address:

  • evaluation of the drivers of land use change;
  • review of future demand and supply of biofuels to 2020 and their impact upon GHG-emissions;
  • and economic benefits and food insecurity concerns of increasing demand for biofuels.

The specific questions being asked by the RFA include:

  1. What are the key drivers of land use change and food insecurity to date and to what extent is increasing demand for biofuels significant?
  2. To what extent may global demand for biofuels contribute to land use change and food insecurity to 2020 given known current and proposed targets?
  3. How are GHG-savings from biofuels affected by displaced agricultural activity and resulting land-use change taking into account the introduction of possible advanced technologies and other improvements in production?
  4. What are the indirect effects of biofuels on land change, greenhouse gas emissions and food insecurities
  5. What is the relationship between commodity prices and land conversion and food insecurities?
  6. What potential is there for biofuel production to boost carbon uptake, restore degraded land, or be produced on genuinely unproductive land?

The full announcement provides details on how to respond and specifies that published or unpublished studies, emerging findings, and studies in progress but for which findings are not yet available may be submitted to RFA as evidence.

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