Synergies and trade-offs between bioenergy use and the UN sustainable development goals: A quantitative approach using IMAGE model data to assess the impact of bioenergy use on indicators for the sustainable development goals related to bioenergy use by 2030
Leeuwen, J.D. van
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In 2015 the United Nations adopted the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and the Paris agreement. The SDGs consist of 17 goals for a sustainable society, while the Paris agreement intends to limit anthropogenic climate change. Bioenergy is expected to play an important role in achievement of the Paris agreement, but can also affect progress towards multiple SDGs. In this research the possible synergies and trade-offs between bioenergy use and the SDGs in 2030 are quantified. For this, IMAGE model projections are assessed using a newly set-up method. Multiple indicators are selected for SDGs related to bioenergy. The impact of bioenergy is quantified by comparing scenarios with bioenergy use allowed and a counterfactual without bioenergy. A composite indicator per SDG is created using the individual indicators and the desired direction of their change. Positive composite indicator results are defined as synergies between bioenergy use and the SDGs, negative results as trade-offs. Three alternative futures are assessed in a baseline and climate change scenario to compare differences in bioenergy implementation and use. The results show that synergies and trade-offs between bioenergy use and the SDGs differ under alternative futures and scenarios. When allowing bioenergy use, in an optimistic (SSP1) and middle-of-the-road (SSP2) future, mostly synergies (up to 21%) occur. This is as bioenergy use lowers prices and, under the implementation methods in these futures, net total greenhouse gas emissions decline. In a pessimistic (SSP3) future, trade-offs (down to 3%) occur. This is as poor implementation of bioenergy in this future drives land use change, which results in a net increase of total greenhouse gas emissions by bioenergy use. With climate change mitigation the synergies and trade-offs are generally stronger compared to the baseline (difference up to 19 percent point between baseline and CCM). This is caused mainly by a difference in bioenergy competitiveness. With the implementation of carbon taxes in the CCM scenario, the competitiveness of bioenergy with other energy sources increases. Result is higher bioenergy demand and consequently exaggeration of the synergies and trade-offs. Due to model limitations, not for all related SDGs quantification of the indicators was possible. For these SDGs the impact of bioenergy use is assessed qualitatively. In the current IMAGE model SDGs related to emissions and climate aspects are covered well, but SDGs related to social aspects require improvement. Suggestions for improvement are made and it is recommended to focus improvement efforts on socially related SDGs. The implementation method of bioenergy use has great impact to creation of synergies or trade-offs to the SDGs. Most important factor in prevention of trade-offs is prevention of natural land conversion. Further research to assess the impact of bioenergy use policies on the synergies and trade-offs may be necessary.