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Considering Biofuels from an Ecosystem Services Perspective

Sam Johnston

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As countries look to ensure their energy security and mitigate climate change, biofuels — liquid fuels and blending components produced from biomass (plant) feedstocks — have become a key component of the climate response portfolio.

Government support, in the form of subsidies and other policy instruments, set the scene for a biofuels boom. Though the enthusiasm for biofuels has dampened, future demand for and production of liquid biofuels are set to increase (IEA, 2007) especially as fuel blending mandates (quotas) introduced by various countries come into effect.

The UNU Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS) policy report Biofuels and Ecosystem Services assesses biofuels through the holistic perspective of the Ecosystem Services approach promoted by the inter-governmental Millennum Ecosystem Assessment (MA) in 2005. Policy decisions based on the valuations of ecosystem services are still new and untested, though much attention has been given to the proliferation of the ecosystem services concept.

The MA did not consider biofuels in its study and no ecosystem service analysis of biofuels has been part of MA-follow up research work since 2005. This original research analyses the ecosystem services implication of biofuels as well as scoping out ways to identify, measure, monitor and analyse particular ecosystem services relevant to the production, distribution and use of biofuels.

It will allow policy-makers to make better decisions on feedstock choices, location of land use change for biofuels and production and usage to better address the climate change imperative.

Focus areas:


Regions covered:


Participating entities:

University of Tokyo, IGES and others


UNU-IAS Policy Report: Biofuels and Ecosystem Services (forthcoming)


Page last modified 2019.04.16.

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