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FAO/UNEP/UN-Energy Bioenergy Decision Support Tool -
MODULE 8: Impacts
Module 8: Evaluating Impacts
This module considers impacts from bioenergy systems in greater detail through a set of guiding questions for key environmental and
socio-economic impacts associated with bioenergy development. These questions are grouped into four main categories:
• Food security;
• Environment and natural resources;
• Climate and emissions; and
• Socio-economic impacts.
The impacts reviewed here and the questions that address them are most appropriate for the evaluation of large-scale
projects and
programmes
although some aspects apply to all scales and can also be applied at the strategy level if there are suffcient concrete
elements in the strategy.
The guiding questions are in some cases quite detailed; a simpler form of evaluation or appraisal may be appropriate, depending on
the type and scale of the project or programme
<Mod4-Project Screening>
. A clear distinction can be made between large-scale
schemes and small-scale schemes for local use in terms of projected severity and coverage of impacts. Where impacts for large-scale
bioenergy schemes are being considered, then it will be important to use all the categories of guiding questions. However, where local
bioenergy schemes are being utilized, a more selective use of questions may be appropriate (Table 1). References are provided for
some questions or group of questions, including reports, databases, maps, and assessment and mitigation tools.
Food Security
The potential effects of bioenergy production (particularly liquid biofuel production) on global commodity prices, and the resulting
impacts on the trade balance and food security of developing countries, have been extensively discussed in a number of studies.
However, most developing countries are price-takers in the global agricultural commodity market, i.e. their domestic production has
little or no impact on international prices. Consequently, the guiding questions on food security focus on national and local implications
of bioenergy production.
It is important to distinguish impacts at two levels – the national (or regional) level and the local level. If bioenergy investment projects
are located in areas that are not well connected to national markets, for instance, there may be signifcant local price implications that
cannot be captured if only aggregate national level impacts are considered.
The analysis should also consider that some implications for food security may not be immediate but manifest themselves over time.
For instance, there may be suffcient land available for food and bioenergy production at the moment, however a steep population
growth rate may require signifcant expansion of agricultural production and may lead to competition in the future. Trade-offs may have
to be made. This section is aimed at assisting decision-makers in identifying the core questions to consider in assessing the potential
food security implications in a transparent manner, which must always take account of the unique circumstances in their own country or
region.
If this has not already been done as a part of food security policies, an analysis of potential implications of bioenergy development on
food security should start with an assessment of the
status and trends of food insecurity
in the country and specifc areas. Rather than
assessing impacts of bioenergy production on all possible commodities, the assessment should identify the
key commodities that make
up the food basket of vulnerable communities
that are most likely to be affected.
Note that national (or regional, where appropriate) defnitions should apply for the various terms used, such as “food security”, “poverty”
and “vulnerable groups.”
Table 1: Expected relevance of guiding questions for different biomass sources and scales or markets
(*** = highest relevance)
Main feedstock source
Scale/market
Food
Security
Environment
and Natural
Resources
Climate and
emissions
Socio-
economic
Agricultural sources
Dedicated agro-energy crops
Large-scale/export
***
***
***
***
Improved or increased use of co-products Variable
*
**
**
**
Wastes and residues
Small-scale/domestic
**
**
**
*
Woody sources
Dedicated forest plantation
Large-scale/export
***
***
***
***
Extraction from native forests
Small-scale/domestic
*
***
**
**
Wastes and residues
Small-scale/domestic
*
**
*
**
Mixed sources
Small-scale/domestic
**
**
**
*
NOTE: feedstock sources and scales/markets are examples rather than an exhaustive list