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Biofuel impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services

The development of modern high efficiency bioenergy technologies has the
potential to improve energy security and access while reducing environmental impacts
and stimulating low-carbon development. While modern bioenergy production is
increasing in the world, it still makes a small contribution to our energy matrix.
At present, approximately 87% of energy demand is satisfied by energy produced
through consumption of fossil fuels. Although the International Energy Agency (IEA)
predicts that this share will fall to 75%, the total consumption of fossil fuels will continue
to rise, adding another 6 Gt of carbon to the atmosphere by 2035. The consequences
of this increase are worrisome.
Our oceans are being critically affected. Oceans are an important CO2 sink and absorb
26% of the CO2 emissions but due to accelerated acidification and rising sea surface
temperatures, this capacity may be reduced. Never in the last 300 million years has
the rate of ocean acidification been so high. In the last 150 years, acidity in oceans
increased by 30%. The main cause are the emissions from fossil fuel burning, especially
the release of CO2.
Deforestation and land degradation also contribute to increased greenhouse gas
emissions. The world’s total forest area in 2010 was just over 4 billion hectares,
which corresponds to an average of 0.6 ha per capita. Each year, between 2000 and
2010, around 13 million hectares of forestland were converted to other uses or lost
through natural causes. The production of timber for housing or the need to make land
available for urbanization, large-scale cash crops such as soy and oil palm, subsistence
agriculture and cattle ranching induce deforestation. Forests are also degraded or
damaged due to the soaring demand for fuelwood and charcoal for cooking and heating
in developing countries that suffer from low levels of access to modern energy services.
Most of the world’s bioenergy is presently derived from wood burning for cooking and
heating in developing countries. Such traditional uses of biomass are low in cost to the
users, but their technical inefficiency results in considerable health and environmental
costs while providing only low quality energy services. Many countries demonstrate
that a much higher efficiency can be obtained in traditional uses commercially with
sustainably managed feedstock supplies. Since bioenergy systems often operate
at the interface between agriculture and forestry, they are also closely connected to
the planning and governance of these sectors and of policy to conserve and manage
forests. Consequently, interdisciplinary and cross-level or horizontal studies are needed
in order to define the best routes through which achieve a sustainable energy matrix.
Can modern bioenergy make a significant contribution to our energy matrix with
positive contributions to the environment? What are the social, environmental and
economic implications of the expansion of bioenergy in the world? How does expansion
of bioenergy perform in the context of the food, energy, climate, development and
environment nexus? Which are the most significant potential benefits of bioenergy
production and use and how can we design implementation platforms and policy
frameworks to ensure that such benefits are realized and widely replicated? What are
the scientific research needs and technological development requirements needed to
fill in the gaps?
To answer some of these questions, FAPESP BIOEN, Climate Change and BIOTA
Research Programs led, in December 2013, a group of 50 experts from 13 countries
convened at UNESCO in Paris, France, for a rapid assessment process on “Bioenergy
and Sustainability” under the aegis of SCOPE. Background chapters commissioned
before the workshop provided the basis for this international consultation during which
crosscutting discussions focused on four themes: Energy Security, Food Security,
Environmental and Climate Security, Sustainable Development and Innovation.
The resulting synthesis volume has the contribution of 137 researchers from 82
institutions in 24 countries.

Joly, CA , Huntley, BJ , Verdade, LM , Dale, VH , Mace, G , Muok, B , Ravindranath, NH
Contact Person
Virginia H. Dale
Contact Organization
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
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Bioenergy Category
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