Indirect land use change (iLUC)

Indirect land use change (iLUC) is a phenomenon which refers to the displacement of previous land activity and the unintended carbon emissions occurring on the displaced land due to human and nature induced use changes.

iLUC modelling efforts

iLUC can neither be observed nor measured in real time. For this reason, causality models are developed where certain assumptions are employed to reach estimations on iLUC impacts. However, due to the magnitude of assumptions in iLUC estimations and lack of reliable databases, it is difficult to assess and assign land-use changes to a particular activity.

The iLUC study used by the European Commission in its iLUC proposal was published by IFPRI, and it is criticised and challenged by a number of scientists working in the area. A number of serious shortcomings, mistakes and wrong assumptions were found in the IFPRI report, which gave a negative result to vegetable oils’ GHG balance. Correction of only some of the critical mistakes within the IFPRI study can lead to considerable improvement of the GHG balance of biofuels produced from vegetable oils.

Following the mounting criticism on the methodology and data chosen by IFPRI, in 2013, the European Commission commissioned  a new modelling exercise.  IIASA (International.... ) is part of the consortium and will be modelling the iLUC impact of EU Biofuels policy using a partial equilibrium model, also known as GLOBIOM. With the launch of the iLUC Quantification Study, FEDIOL engaged with the project leaders  and other stakeholders, to further scientific research in this area, to provide up-to-date information on oilseeds crushing and improve understanding of certain parameters, such as valorisation of protein meals, food consumption of vegetable oils in Europe, limits to the substitution between vegetable oils.  To date, the project leaders identified 37 key areas where the model needs to be improved, however only 11 partial corrections will be made due to time and financial constraints.

A comparison of different iLUC models shows that there is a high variation in the findings of the studies trying to quantify iLUC. As models are refined, iLUC tends to be lower and converge for ethanol and biodiesel.

iLUC policy-making

Given that the reference study for policy making is unreliable and the science relating to iLUC is fast evolving, FEDIOL disagrees with the use of iLUC factors as a policy instrument, both for accounting and for reporting purposes.

>>Study on scientific robustness and compatibility of iLUC modelling with LCAs, by Professor Matthias Finkbeiner

>>Key conclusions of the study

Academics as well are highly critical about the use of ILUC values for policy making and rather support using iLUC models to qualify what contributes to ILUC and how it could be better addressed and mitigated. This approach has been outlined in further detail in:

>>Presentation of Professor André Faaij, Utrecht University

>>Summary and conclusions of the presentation