The Living Forests Model, developed with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, allows us to explore the implications of various land-use scenarios. We used the model to look at the potential impact of the large increase in bioenergy required by ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
What the model shows us
Deforestation: It should still be possible to achieve WWF’s goal of ZNDD by 2020 while increasing bioenergy production, assuming ambitious climate change mitigation goals are the driving force behind bioenergy expansion. If bioenergy producers need to avoid land-use changes that cause increased greenhouse gas emissions, bioenergy should not become a major cause of forest loss.
Forest management: To meet anticipated demand for wood, especially for bioenergy, the area of forest that is managed for timber production is projected to increase by over 300 million hectares between now and 2050. While this is preferable to deforestation, the impacts will largely depend on how closely the principles of sustainable forest management are followed.
Tree plantations: Fast-growing tree plantations will continue to increase, largely to meet the demand for bioenergy: around 250 million hectares of new tree plantations are likely to be added between now and 2050. By 2050, the projected expansion rate may be more than 10 million hectares per year.
Other natural ecosystems: As land competition becomes more acute, bioenergy will threaten other diverse natural ecosystems too, such as shrublands and grasslands. Growing demand for bioenergy could become the main driver behind their conversion.
Food consumption and security: Increased demand for bioenergy could drive up food prices and threaten food security. But it is possible to meet the world’s food, fibre and energy needs while protecting forests if we move toward a global diet in which people in richer countries reduce calories from animal protein while people in poor countries increase them, improve agricultural efficiency and reduce food waste.