In Switzerland, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its new Special Report on Climate Change and Land that there are limits to the contribution of land to addressing climate change, for instance through the cultivation of energy crops and afforestation. It says that bioenergy is vital if society is going to keep under the 2 degrees C scenario. It also takes time for trees and soils to store carbon effectively. Bioenergy needs to be carefully managed to avoid risks to food security, biodiversity and land degradation.
An overall focus on sustainability coupled with early action offers the best chances to tackle climate change. This would entail low population growth and reduced inequalities, improved nutrition and lower food waste.
This could enable a more resilient food system and make more land available for bioenergy, while still protecting forests and natural ecosystems. However, without early action in these areas, more land would be required for bioenergy, leading to challenging decisions about future land-use and food security.
A leaked draft of the report took a much harsher view on bioenergy and its potential impact on food security, but the final report took a much more pragmatic view about the opportunities if balanced with food security needs. In the summary for policymakers, section B3.3 states “The production and use of biomass for bioenergy can have co-benefits, adverse side effects, and risks for land degradation, food insecurity, GHG emissions and other environmental and sustainable development goals (high confidence). These impacts are context specific and depend on the scale of deployment, initial land use, land type, bioenergy feedstock, initial carbon stocks, climatic region and management regime, and other land-demanding response options can have a similar range of consequences (high confidence). The use of residues and organic waste as bioenergy feedstock can mitigate land use change pressures associated with bioenergy deployment, but residues are limited and the removal of residues that would otherwise be left on the soil could lead to soil degradation (high confidence).”