Bioenergy and climate change mitigation: an assessment
Journal article, 2015

Bioenergy deployment offers significant potential for climate change mitigation, but also carries considerable risks. In this review, we bring together perspectives of various communities involved in the research and regulation of bioenergy deployment in the context of climate change mitigation: Land-use and energy experts, land-use and integrated assessment modelers, human geographers, ecosystem researchers, climate scientists and two different strands of life-cycle assessment experts. We summarize technological options, outline the state-of-the-art knowledge on various climate effects, provide an update on estimates of technical resource potential and comprehensively identify sustainability effects. Cellulosic feedstocks, increased end-use efficiency, improved land carbon-stock management and residue use, and, when fully developed, BECCS appear as the most promising options, depending on development costs, implementation, learning, and risk management. Combined heat and power, efficient biomass cookstoves and small-scale power generation for rural areas can help to promote energy access and sustainable development, along with reduced emissions. We estimate the sustainable technical potential as up to 100EJ: high agreement; 100-300EJ: medium agreement; above 300EJ: low agreement. Stabilization scenarios indicate that bioenergy may supply from 10 to 245EJyr(-1) to global primary energy supply by 2050. Models indicate that, if technological and governance preconditions are met, large-scale deployment (>200EJ), together with BECCS, could help to keep global warming below 2 degrees degrees of preindustrial levels; but such high deployment of land-intensive bioenergy feedstocks could also lead to detrimental climate effects, negatively impact ecosystems, biodiversity and livelihoods. The integration of bioenergy systems into agriculture and forest landscapes can improve land and water use efficiency and help address concerns about environmental impacts. We conclude that the high variability in pathways, uncertainties in technological development and ambiguity in political decision render forecasts on deployment levels and climate effects very difficult. However, uncertainty about projections should not preclude pursuing beneficial bioenergy options.

land use

technical potential



climate change mitigation

life-cycle analysis


F. Creutzig

Technische Universität Berlin

N. H. Ravindranath

Indian Institute of Science

Göran Berndes

Chalmers, Energy and Environment, Physical Resource Theory

S. Bolwig

Technical University of Denmark (DTU)

R. Bright

Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

F. Cherubini

Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

H. Chum

National Renewable Energy Laboratory

E. Corbera

Institut de Ciencia i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA)-UAB

M. Delucchi

University of California

A. Faaij

University of Groningen

J. Fargione

H. Haberl

Humboldt University of Berlin

Alpen-Adria Universitaet (AAU)

G. Heath

National Renewable Energy Laboratory

O. Lucon

R. Plevin

Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

A. Popp

Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich (ETH)

C. Robledo-Abad

Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)

S. Rose

University of Aberdeen

P. Smith

University of California

A. H. Stromman

Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

S. Suh

Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico

O. Masera

Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico

GCB Bioenergy

1757-1693 (ISSN) 1757-1707 (eISSN)

Vol. 7 5 916-944

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Subject Categories

Agricultural Science




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9/6/2018 2