skip to main content


Title: The role of bioenergy in a climate-changing world

Bioenergy has been under intense scrutiny over the last ten years with significant research efforts in many countries taking place to define and measure sustainable practices. We describe here the main challenges and policy issues and provide policy recommendations for scaling up sustainable bioenergy approaches globally. The 2016 Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs defined under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP21) will not reach global Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emission targets of 2 °C. Sustainable biomass production can make a significant contribution. Substantive evidence exists that many bioenergy cropping systems can bring multiple benefits and off-set environmental problems associated with fossil fuels usage as well as intensive food production and urbanization. We provide evidence that there are many approaches to land use for bioenergy expansion that do not lead to competition for food or other needs. We should focus on how to manage these approaches on a synergistic basis and how to reduce tradeoffs at landscape scales. Priorities include successful synergies between bioenergy and food security (integrated resource management designed to improve both food security and access to bioenergy), investments in technology, rural extension, and innovations that build capacity and infrastructure, promotion of stablemore » prices to incentivize local production and use of double cropping and flex crops (plants grown for both food and non-food markets) that provide food and energy as well as other services. The sustainable production of biomass requires appropriate policies to secure long-term support to improve crop productivity and also to ensure environmental as well as economic and social benefits of bioenergy cropping systems. Continuous support for cropping, infrastructure, agricultural management and related policies is needed to foster positive synergies between food crops and bioenergy production. In comparison to fossil fuels, biofuels have many positive environmental benefits. Potential negative effects caused by land-use change and agriculture intensification can be mitigated by agroecological zoning, best management practices, the use of eco-hydrology and biodiversity-friendly concepts at field, watershed and landscape scales. Global climate and environmental changes related to the use of fossil fuels and inequitable development make it unethical not to pursue more equitable energy development that includes bioenergy. Here, to achieve sustainable development, competitiveness and costs of bioenergy production need to be addressed in a manner that considers not only economic gains but also development of local knowledge and social and environmental benefits.« less
 [1] ;  [2] ;  [3] ;  [4] ;  [5] ;  [6] ;  [7] ; ORCiD logo [4] ;  [8] ;  [9] ;  [10] ;  [11] ;  [2] ;  [12] ;  [2] ;  [2] ;  [13]
  1. Univ. de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo (Brazil)
  2. Univ. de Sao Paulo (Brazil)
  3. FAPESP and Physics Institute, Unicamp (Brazil)
  4. National Renewable Energy Lab. (NREL), Golden, CO (United States)
  5. Michigan State Univ., East Lansing, MI (United States)
  6. Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
  7. The World Bank, Washington, D.C. (United States)
  8. Rothamsted Research, Herts (United Kingdom)
  9. Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH (United States)
  10. FEQ, Unicamp (Brazil)
  11. Banco Nacional do Desenvolvimento (Brazil)
  12. Delft Univ. of Technology (The Netherlands)
  13. BE-Basic (Brazil)
Publication Date:
Report Number(s):
Journal ID: ISSN 2211-4645
Grant/Contract Number:
AC36-08GO28308; AC05-00OR22725
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Environmental Development
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 23; Journal Issue: C; Journal ID: ISSN 2211-4645
Research Org:
National Renewable Energy Lab. (NREL), Golden, CO (United States); Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Bioenergy Technologies Office (EE-3B)
Country of Publication:
United States
09 BIOMASS FUELS; 54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; bioenergy; food security; energy security; environmental security; climate change; sustainable development; landscapes
OSTI Identifier:
Alternate Identifier(s):
OSTI ID: 1408030