Indirect Impacts

Page updated 17 January 2014

Indirect Impacts of biofuels (and biomaterials) have been under discussion for some time with little consensus on how to best address them. Indirect impacts include the effects of an increased share of raw material being used for bioenergy or biomaterial production on food prices, as well as the resulting “displacement” (or leakage) effects, which are usually  referred to as Indirect Land Use Change.

While the existence of such effects is generally accepted, the intensity of the phenomenon and the exact contribution of biofuels in the surge of food prices are heavily disputed, without a clear consensus among experts. Thus, any attempt to quantify or model indirect impacts to attribute an extra greenhouse gas contribution – as in the case of iLUC factors, which are currently implemented in the California’ Low Carbon Fuel Standard 1 (LCFS) and are under discussion at the EU Parliament – remains risky and subject to controversy.

This is why the RSB, based on extended discussion and an extensive consultation process in 2012, decided to address indirect impacts through a less controversial approach: The Low Indirect Impact Biofuels (LIIB) approach 2. Developed jointly by WWF International, EPFL and Ecofys, the LIIB approach encourages biomass production/ processing practices, which decrease the risk of displacement and competition with the food, feed and fiber sectors. For instance, by increasing yield of existing agricultural land, additional amounts of raw materials can be produced without decreasing the existing supply. Similarly, the use of wastes and residues, intercropping and use of abandoned lands do not increase pressure over arable land by diverting raw material from the existing supply.

The RSB Assembly of Delegates, which regroups representatives from both the industry and the civil society, approved the implementation of the LIIB approach as a built-in complementary module proposed to RSB-certified companies willing to demonstrate a low risk of creating indirect impacts. Thus, this module will remain voluntary and companies will be offered RSB certification with or without this extra claim. The RSB will develop such modules in the coming months. Meanwhile, the LIIB consortium will keep improving the approach and increase the number of eligible good practices. It is hoped that the European Commission and the European Parliament will consider the LIIB approach as a possible alternative to the iLUC factors and the proposed cap on conventional biofuels, given the fact that the LIIB approach is much less subject to controversy, especially among industrial players.

1. History of RSB IIEG Origin & Objectives

In November 2009 the RSB Steering Board agreed to convene an Indirect Impacts Expert Group (IIEG) to advise it on a strategy for the RSB to address Indirect Impacts of biofuel poduction in the RSB Standard. The IIEG meets through Teleconference Calls (see schedule below) and is coordinated by Victoria Junquera, RSB Manager of Science and Technology.  If you have any question or comment do not hesitate to contact Victoria (victoria.junquera[at]epfl.ch).

RSB Indirect Impacts Expert Group Members List

2. Latest News

LIIB Version 0 is published!
EPFL, in collaboration with WWF International, Ecofys and other project partners has developed the Low Indirect Impact Biofuels (LIIB) methodology.Version 0 was published in September 2012. The LIIB methodology lists certain categories of biofuels & biofuel feedstocks with a certifiably low risk of causing indirect impacts, such as biofuels from increased yield/productivity, from end-of-life products, or cultivated in unused land. The field testing version of LIIB was discussed by the IIEG during a conference call. Furthermore, after a year of pilot tests we have gathered important experience, all of which has been incorporated into Version 0.

Public Consultation & RSB Consultation on Indirect impacts and the RSB Standard

The RSB conducted a Public Consultation on the issue of indirect impacts.  We would like to thank participants very much for their contributions!  Overall, we received feedback from over 30 organizations.  Results from the public consultation are now available.

The background for the public consultation was the last background paper (see below) by the RSB Secretariat on the issue, “Indirect impacts of biofuel production and the RSB Standard” from 13 April 2012, which included concrete options to address indirect impacts in the RSB Standard, as well as an evaluation of the options. The RSB Secretariat is currently updating this paper based on peer review feedback received from IIEG members and will post the new version shortly.

3. History of IIEG Teleconference Calls

Date & Time  Agenda & Call-In  Background Document(s) Meeting Notes
7 September 2011, 15:00 – 16:30 UTC Agenda and Call-in information CIIB Field Testing Version: Background document; and Ecofys presentation Meeting notes & summary of feedback received after the call
24 May 2011 Agenda and Call-in  information How to address indirect impacts in the RSB – 18 May 2011 Meeting notes & summary
10 May 2010 (4th Call 2010) Agenda and Call-in information Meeting notes & summary
19 March 2010 (3rd call 2010) Agenda and Call-in information 2010 3rd RSB IIEG web conference – Meeting notes & summary (includes DRAFT Indirect Impacts document discussed during the call)
15, 16, 18 February 2010 (Subgroups) (2nd call 2010) Agenda and Call-In information Practices & Feedstocks - Monday 15 February – Meeting notesiLUC - Tuesday 16 February – Meeting notesFood Security - Thursday 18 February – Meeting notes
14 January 2010 Agenda and Call-in information Meeting notes

4. Documents Circulated by RSB

Highlights

New! LIIB Version 0 – September 2012
Results summary from the Public Consultation. 12 July 2012Public Consultation: The RSB Standard and Indirect Impacts, April 13-May 15, 2012Low Indirect Impacts Biofuels (LIIB) Methodology, Field Testing Version, July 2011. Developed in collaboration with Ecofys, WWF International and other project partners. This methodology does not reflect the RSB’s position on indirect impacts, nor has it been integrated into the RSB Standard, but it will inform the options proposed by the Secretariat to address indirect impacts in the RSB Standard. Version Zero will be posted shortly.ILUC Portal. The ILUC Portal contains numerous resources on indirect impacts of biofuels, including the latest news, articles and reports about indirect impacts, as well as event announcements, etc. You can find more information on the section BioenergyWiki ILUC Portal.