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Indirect Land-Use Change from Biofuels: Recent Developments in Modeling and Policy Landscapes

UCD-ITS-RP-10-24

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Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways (STEPS)

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Rising international demand for biofuels to replace fossil fuels used in transport has raised concerns that the induced extra demand for biofuel feedstocks, currently dominated by food-based products, can displace agricultural production. When this occurs, price effects ripple through commodity, land, and related markets. Shifts in land cover in response to those price changes have been termed indirect land-use change (iLUC). Emissions from land-use change have become an important and controversial aspect of biofuel policies, with attention drawn to potentially long periods for biofuel feedstocks to “pay back” carbon lost when the feedstocks themselves or replacement crops move into high-carbon-stock regions. There are additional concerns about other indirect effects, such as biodiversity loss, pressure on local water resources, and disturbance of local land rights (that could accompany the land-use conversion), as well as impacts on food prices and food security or higher emissions elsewhere due to price changes (intensification on existing agricultural land or greater fossil-fuel use outside the biofuels policy area).

This Policy Brief serves as a background paper for the October 2010 seminar, “Carbon Standards in Agricultural Production and Trade,” organized by the International Food & Agricultural Trade Policy Council (IPC) with support from Sao Paulo’s Federation of Industries (FIESP).

Suggested Citation: Yeh, Sonia, and Julie Witcover. 2010. "Policy Brief: Indirect Land-Use Change from Biofuels:  Recent Developments in Modeling and Policy Landscapes, " In Carbon Standards in Agricultural Production and Trade. Sao Paulo: International Food & Agricultural Trade Policy Council (IPC).