Box 4.3 Oil palm production in
Indonesia The challenge of preventing encroachment on sensitive areas has become apparent with the expansion of oil palm production in Asia. For instance Indonesian oil palm developments, to date largely for food production, have led to high levels of deforestation. However, growing oil palms in areas such as the Imperata Grasslands, rather than on wooded and peat land, is part of a more sustainable biofuels development strategy. This grassland covers an estimated 8 million hectares; a sizeable area considering the total area for oil- palm plantations is about 10 million hectares. Using this land could ensure more sustainable oil-palm biodiesel production by limiting indirect land-use impacts and preserve biodiverse forests.
Source: Dehue, B., Meyer S. and van de Staaij, J. (2010): Responsible Cultivation Areas. Identification and certification of feedstock production with a low risk of indirect effects. Ecofys Available at: www.ecofys.com/en/publications/17/
Foster sustainable land use
Land-use planning is one strategy to manage competition for land and, at the same time, reduce environmental and social impacts. Assessment of land suitability and availability can identify both high-risk areas where land conversion should be avoided, and areas where bioenergy production is appropriate. Such assessments need to consider a range of variables including:
• Temperatures and water balance, topography and soil types;
• Climate-change projections and adaptation needs;
46 Figure 4.6 Potential biofuels production on abandoned agriculture land
• Screening for environmentally sensitive areas; • Impact on ecosystem services;
• Current land cover and use, including land used for housing, agriculture and cultural/medicinal areas; and
• Conflict zones, archaeological sites, land tenure, and infrastructure issues.
These assessments produce the best results when using a combined top-down (GIS /spatial data) and bottom-up approach (ground-truthing, stakeholder involvement).
Restoring formerly degraded land and using under- used and/or abandoned land can boost output without increasing pressure to convert land. Careful assessment is needed as such land may harbour high levels of biodiversity, cultural values, or have been deliberately set aside.
Maximise greenhouse gas reductions
Many countries have already shown that bioenergy can be part of a comprehensive national emissions reduction strategy, and integrated as part of national planning in processes such as National Appropriate Mitigation Strategies (NAMAs). Such planning processes help identify the most efficient combination of approaches to reduce GHG emissions.
As discussed above, the various biofuels pathways all entail different GHG impacts, with land use being a critical aspect. For example, growing oil palms on degraded land results in a better life-cycle carbon balance than converting peatland into oil-palm monocultures.
Improving efficiency all the way through the biofuels life cycle can reduce total emissions. For example, sustainable agricultural practices rather than current practices, can cut emissions, with even bigger gains when crop and energy systems are integrated. In Brazil integrating food-energy systems and recovering sugarcane bagasse for energy has maximised the GHG benefits of bioenergy.