Global Land Use Change and Food Security Implications of China’s Bioenergy Development under 2060 Carbon Neutrality Target

Wu, Y. (2021). Global Land Use Change and Food Security Implications of China’s Bioenergy Development under 2060 Carbon Neutrality Target. IIASA YSSP Report. Laxenburg, Austria: IIASA

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Most 1.5-degree climate change mitigation pathways modeled by Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) require large-scale deployment of negative emission technologies in a medium-to-long turn, especially bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). However, the impacts and feasibility of such bioenergy developments are still under heated debate. Moreover, one region’s climate actions and bioenergy demand may arouse strong spillover effects via international trade. As the world’s top CO2 emitter, China has just made the 2060 carbon-neutral pledge. In this context, whether it is feasible to produce the bioenergy needed for this target domestically, and what might be the global ecological and economic implications if China imports a certain amount of bioenergy or crops to support the bioenergy development, are important scientific and policy questions.
In this study, the Global Biosphere Management Model (GLOBIOM) was applied to test the impacts of possible production or import portfolios for China’s bioenergy demand under the 2060 carbon neutrality target. The study started by collecting the scenario data of China’s bioenergy demand under the netzero emission targets. Then a series of bioenergy production and trade scenarios were designed and input into the GLOBIOM model to estimate the impacts of higher bioenergy production or import demand on the global agriculture and land-use sector. Finally, the effects of rising demand for shortrotation plantation biomass in China on global land cover, greenhouse gases emissions, food production and trade, and the implications for food security were quantitatively assessed.
Our analysis indicates that pursuing high biomass production in any single region could lead to certain sustainability concerns. For example, if the excess biomass for meeting China’s increased bioenergy demand under the 2060 carbon neutrality scenario is to be produced and imported from South Asia, the number of undernourished people across the world could increase by 34 million in 2030 and 17 million in 2060. Importing more biomass from Europe would lead to significant spillover impacts, with land-use change and competition for cropland intensified in Latin America and Africa.
It is also found that the induced land-use change and food security impacts might peak around 2030 and 2040, possibly due to population peaking and the technological improvement that would rather relax the markets. Therefore, introducing a large-scale production of biomass as a mitigation option after 2040 might be a better timing for simultaneously attaining multiple sustainable development goals.
Sensitivity analysis indicates that higher bioenergy demand could reduce the feasibility of excess biomass supply and therefore bring greater challenges to sustainable bioenergy development. It should also be noted that the bioenergy demand in other regions except China were assumed to follow the values in the reference climate scenarios in the main analysis above; and if the rest of the world also increases the bioenergy demand to be in line with the 1.5℃ target, the impacts of excess biomass demand on GHG emissions and food security would be slightly intensified.
Furthermore, a more diversified importing portfolio with an optimized regional allocation of global biomass production would be crucial to reduce the negative trade-offs. An optimized bioenergy import portfolio combined with stricter forest regulation could fulfill the increased biomass demand for China, while simultaneously achieving food security and forest protection targets, avoiding 35.5 million (or 17.5 million) cumulative undernourishment from 2030 to 2060 compared with the domestic production scenario (or a fixed global biomass trade scenario). These results could shed some light on designing environmental-friendly, sustainability-coordinated bioenergy strategies for supporting the deep transition toward low-carbon economies.

Item Type: Monograph (IIASA YSSP Report)
Research Programs: Biodiversity and Natural Resources (BNR)
Young Scientists Summer Program (YSSP)
Depositing User: Michaela Rossini
Date Deposited: 04 Oct 2021 07:02
Last Modified: 01 Apr 2022 10:55

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