2018-02-01Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aa9e3b
Large-scale bioenergy production: how to resolve sustainability trade-offs?
Large-scale 2nd generation bioenergy deployment is a key element of 1.5 °C and 2 °C transformation pathways. However, large-scale bioenergy production might have negative sustainability implications and thus may conflict with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) agenda. Here, we carry out a multi-criteria sustainability assessment of large-scale bioenergy crop production throughout the 21st century (300 EJ in 2100) using a global land-use model. Our analysis indicates that large-scale bioenergy production without complementary measures results in negative effects on the following sustainability indicators: deforestation, CO2 emissions from land-use change, nitrogen losses, unsustainable water withdrawals and food prices. One of our main findings is that single-sector environmental protection measures next to large-scale bioenergy production are prone to involve trade-offs among these sustainability indicators—at least in the absence of more efficient land or water resource use. For instance, if bioenergy production is accompanied by forest protection, deforestation and associated emissions (SDGs 13 and 15) decline substantially whereas food prices (SDG 2) increase. However, our study also shows that this trade-off strongly depends on the development of future food demand. In contrast to environmental protection measures, we find that agricultural intensification lowers some side-effects of bioenergy production substantially (SDGs 13 and 15) without generating new trade-offs—at least among the sustainability indicators considered here. Moreover, our results indicate that a combination of forest and water protection schemes, improved fertilization efficiency, and agricultural intensification would reduce the side-effects of bioenergy production most comprehensively. However, although our study includes more sustainability indicators than previous studies on bioenergy side-effects, our study represents only a small subset of all indicators relevant for the SDG agenda. Based on this, we argue that the development of policies for regulating externalities of large-scale bioenergy production should rely on broad sustainability assessments to discover potential trade-offs with the SDG agenda before implementation.