09 November 2010 18:28 [Source: ICIS news]
The study, by the London-based Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP), said that the EU’s target to require member states to derive 10% of their transport fuels from renewable sources by 2020 would require that up to 6.9m hectares of agricultural land be switched from food to biofuels use – an area equivalent to the size of Ireland.
At the same time, new land would need to be opened up to compensate for the land diverted away from food production, the study said.
The overall impact of this “indirect land use change” (ILUC) effect - which measures the increased demand for agricultural commodities as a consequence of biofuels consumption - meant that increased biofuels production would increase EU emissions, rather than help bring about the emissions reductions targeted under EU law, the study said.
However, Berlin-based VDB criticised the study, saying that the IEEP had not undertaken its own measurements and had relied on the findings of existing studies.
Also, the IEEP’s study had been backed by Greenpeace and other non-governmental organisations, VDB added.
VDB general manager Elmar Baumann said: “[The] IEEP is dealing in conjectures and unsubstantiated premises, which means that the one-sided findings of this study are not backed up scientifically.”
He warned of efforts to block biofuels.
The IEEP’s study “constructed concrete results” even though many scientific studies of ILUC had shown a “high level of uncertainty” in this field of research, Baumann said. While some researchers agreed with the IEEP, others had found that overall emissions would be reduced, not increased.
VDB said that agricultural land use was influenced by a number of factors, including higher demand for food and animal feed products, and different levels in countries’ agricultural productivity, as well as climate change.
Also, biofuels from crops such as rapeseed and soy often yielded animal feed products as by-products, thus reducing the demand for land rather than increasing it, VDB added.
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