Climate Protection with Bioenergy? Yes, but…


Oeko-Institut develops calculation method for comprehensive greenhouse gas emission balance of bioenergy

In the context of the EU Commission’s consultation on climate effects of indirect land use changes associated with biofuels which started this week, Oeko-Institut publishes a proposal for a comprehensive methodology to calculate the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of bioenergy. “Our research confirms other studies’ results that GHG emissions from indirect land use change associated with biofuels can be quite high, but we also show that there are climate-friendly biofuel options“ explains Uwe R. Fritsche from Oeko-Institut’s Darmstadt office, and principal author of the paper.

GHG emissions from indirect land use changes (ILUC) occur if land previously used for food or feed production, for example, is then used to cultivate biofuel feedstocks. The previous cultivation of food or feed is displaced to other land –where the conversion of forests or grassland into arable or pasture land could occur and cause high GHG emissions.

The EU Commission will ask in a public consultation over the next months how the GHG emissions from ILUC could be integrated into the overall GHG balance of biofuels, as only those biofuels are eligible as “sustainable” which demonstrate at least a 35 percent GHG reduction compared to fossil fuels. Only "sustainable" biofuels count under the EU-wide mandatory 10 percent quota for renewable transport fuels by 2020.

”According to our calculations, the emissions from indirect land use changes are, even under conservative estimates, so high that only a few biofuels achieve the 35 percent reduction threshold“, said Fritsche. “Therefore, it is very important that the EU includes the GHG emissions from ILUC in the overall GHG balance of biofuels. Only then would there be a complete overview of biofuels and their contribution to climate protection”.

For this purpose, Oeko-Institut presents a concrete proposal in the working paper and asks the political decision-makers in the EU Commission, European Parliament and European Council to examine and implement the proposals.

Oeko-Institut is submitting the study as an expert statement for the EU Commission’s three-month consultation. The authors will participate in the hearings and expert meetings which the Commission has planned for the coming weeks, and will present their findings.

The working paper is part of the comprehensive research project “Development of strategies and sustainability standards for the certification of biomass for international trade (Bio-global)”, funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment (BMU) via the German Federal Environment Agency (UBA). The final report of this project, which was carried out in collaboration with IFEU, will be published later this month.

The working paper “Sustainability Standards for internationally traded Biomass. The iLUC Factor as a Means to Hedge Risks of GHG Emissions from Indirect Land Use Change“ can be downloaded at

For further information please contact

Uwe R. Fritsche
Energy & Climate Division
Oeko-Institut, Darmstadt Office
Tel: +49 6151 8191-24
E-Mail contact

The Oeko-Institut is a leading European research and consultancy institution working for a sustainable future. Ever since the Institute was founded in 1977, it has striven to build the foundations and forge the strategies needed to make sustainable development happen at all levels – globally, nationally and locally. The Oeko-Institut has offices in Freiburg, Darmstadt and Berlin.