The SSI Commentaries are inspired by sustainable consumption and production issues being addressed by voluntary sustainability standards. As they continue to multiply, capture more market share, and shift commodity sectors towards sustainability, Voluntary Sustainability Standards need to continually evolve to address a broad range of sustainable consumption and production issues. The SSI Commentaries aim to contribute to ongoing reflections on how voluntary sustainability standards can best address sustainable consumption and production by providing additional information and perspective via short briefs.

Biofuels and Indirect Land-Use Change: VSS responding to the food-versus-fuel debate

January 5, 2017

Authors: Richard Bridle & Vivek Voora

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A key component of the U.S. and EU responses to climate change concerns was the introduction of a target for the inclusion of biofuels in the road transport sector to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As biofuel consumption rose, so too did concern that the use of agricultural land to produce its feedstocks could lead to a reduction in available land for food production, potentially leading to increased food price volatility and the conversion of natural land, such as forests, grasslands or peatlands (Ecofys, 2013). The displacement of food crops by fuel crops motivated research on the indirect land-use change (ILUC) impacts of biofuel production. It was found that factoring in potential GHG emissions associated with the conversion of natural lands for food production can increase emissions associated with the production of biofuels significantly (Searchinger, et al., 2008). These findings led to the eventual incorporation of ILUC considerations in U.S. and EU biofuel consumption policies (European Parliament, 2015a; Schnepf & Yacobucci, 2010).