Indirect Land Use Effects
Indirect land use changes (ILUC) occur if changes in agricultural land use in one location result in a change in land use in another location. They have become a subject of public interest with the expanison of biofuel production, leading to the questions as to what extent biofuel cultivation in Europe and North America promotes deforestation in the tropics. ILUC are often market mediated and in that case they are triggered by changes in the supply and demand for agricultural commodities and the resulting changes of commodity prices. The underlying theory states that high prices for agricultural commodities encourage the conversion of land into farmland while low prices discourage such a conversion. However, ILUC can also be triggered more directly by
For example the conversion of rangeland into cropland to produce biofuels (direct land use change) can cause a migration of cattle herders to other locations where they clear forests to create new rangeland (indirect land use change) (Lapola et al., 2010).
result in an unsatisfied demand for the commodity previously produced there and related price increases which in turn motivate conversion of land to cropland in another location (indirect land use change) (Ahlgren & Di Lucia, 2014; Villoria & Hertel , 2011). Likewise, new uses of crops for non-food purposes can lead to increased demand, higher crop prices and ultimately conversion of new land for food production (Wicke et al., 2012). Indirect land use changes can have a significant impact on economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainability (Ahlgren & Di Lucia, 2014).
Scientific discourse on ILUC was originally initiated in connection with the effects of biofuel production. Searchinger et al. (2008) argued that American biofuel production triggered indirect land use changes, most notably the conversion of tropical rainforests and grasslands to farmland, which led to massive greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and resulted in a net-negative effect on global climate. However, while there is scientific consensus on the existence on ILUC effects, their quantification is still problematic with various modelling approaches resulting in different ILUC factors.
At EU level, Directive 2015/1513 was passed in 2015 to account for ILUC effects in bioenergy and biofuels and to amend the Renewable Energy Directive (2009/28/EC) and the Fuels Directive (98/70/EC).