Quantifying the indirect land use change impact of biofuels consumed in the EU (ILUC)

In an assignment for the European Commission, a consortium of Ecofys, IIASA and E4tech will use the GLOBIOM model to assess indirect land use change impacts of conventional and advanced biofuels consumed in the EU.

Canola Crop in Stewart Valley Saskatchewan Canada © Pictureguy66 | Dreamstime.com

Canola Crop in Stewart Valley Saskatchewan Canada © Pictureguy66 | Dreamstime.com


In 2009, the European Union launched an ambitious program to promote the use of renewable fuels in EU transport. By 2020, 10% of energy used in transport in each Member State has to be produced from renewable energy sources, such as biofuels, biogas, electricity or other renewable sources. Also, fuel suppliers have to reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of fuels supplied to the EU with 6%, measured throughout the supply chain from oil well to car wheel. Both policy measures lead to an increase in biofuel production in the EU, sourced from oilseeds (rapeseed, sunflower), cereals (wheat, corn) or sugar beet. It also stimulates imports of biofuels from other regions of the world (e.g. produced from palm oil or sugar cane).

In order to ensure a sustainable production of biofuels, the EU introduced, also in 2009, the world’s first set of mandatory sustainability criteria for biofuels.  These criteria do not include measures to address unwanted indirect land use change (ILUC) associated with biofuel production. ILUC has been subject to several studies and consultations. The key question is what happens when agricultural crops previously used for food and feed are starting to be used for biofuels. Such a shift in crop uses is likely to partly drive increased yields, might partly lead to reduced consumption of food and feed and is likely to partly lead to an increase in arable land elsewhere to compensate for the loss of biomass available for food and feed. An increase in arable land means that non-agricultural land (e.g. grasslands, forests) is converted into agricultural land, which can lead to a loss of carbon stocks and increased greenhouse gas emissions.  Increased emissions due to land use change lead to a decrease in the overall greenhouse gas emission savings from biofuels.

A consortium of Ecofys, IIASA and E4tech started in summer 2013 to investigate the ILUC effect, combining experiences in the renewable energy sectors and land use change modeling. 

More information on the project

Consult the project website: www.globiom-iluc.eu

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Last edited: 08 May 2015


ILUC Quantification Study


June 2013 - June 2015


International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313