Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry

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5.5.3. Associated Impacts of Carbon Substitution Projects

Projects that use short-rotation tree plantations as woody biomass energy sources have equivalent associated impacts to the managed plantation projects described in Section 5.5.2. There are also a broad range of prospective environmental and socioeconomic impacts associated with the production of biomass energy from agricultural crops, such as sugarcane and corn, and oil crops such as soybeans. The impacts of substitution projects can occur on-site (where projects are located) or off-site (where electricity or fuel supply is offset). On-site impacts include local environmental and socioeconomic benefits of the forestry and energy generation components of a bioenergy project. The environmental impacts can include reclamation of degraded lands; potential promotion of biodiversity, provided part of the plantation area is left for natural regeneration (Carpentieri et al., 1993); and reduction of pressure on primary forests to the extent that fuelwood derived from such sources is replaced by other energy sources. Rural bioenergy programs can also help local communities achieve self-reliance and decentralize political power by giving control of resources to the local community (Ravindranath and Hall, 1995).

Provision of small-scale bioenergy in place of wood may often directly benefit women more than men. The foregoing options will decrease the labor and time needed to gather wood and reduce indoor air pollution from smoke (a recognized health hazard). The success of rural projects depends on equitable distribution of benefits that community involvement in rural energy projects can provide (Agarwal and Narain, 1989). On-site energy generation can increase the production of local pollutants. Well-designed projects, however, can offset another more-polluting local source-as in the Bio-Gen Biomass Power Generation Project in Honduras. There, emission control technologies are used to produce fewer pollutants than would have been emitted in the non-project case, with the continued uncontrolled burning of sawmill and logging residues. Giampietro et al. (1997) provide a more general discussion of the environmental impacts of biofuel production.

In conclusion, LULUCF GHG mitigation projects are neither inherently good nor inherently bad in terms of potential environmental and socioeconomic co-benefits. Adequately designed and implemented, projects in each major category can provide significant socioeconomic and environmental benefits to host countries and local communities, though projects of all types pose some risk of negative impacts. Section 5.6 addresses how the sustainable development contributions of these projects can be strengthened and the negative impacts mitigated.

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