Accounting Whole Life Cycle Bioenergy Emissions within the UNFCCC Emission Accounting Framework

Welfle, A.; Röder, M.; Cooper, S.; McManus, M.

Bioenergy is an attractive renewable energy option for many countries as it is compatible with many elements of existing energy infrastructure, and can be easily transported and stored in the form of biomass and fuels. For bioenergy to be a viable low-carbon renewable energy option and replace fossil fuel generation, it is fundamental that the energy generated provides genuine reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in line with the mitigation effort to stay well below 1.5°C. The concept of bioenergy providing lowcarbon energy revolves around the transfers of biogenic carbon between the atmosphere and terrestrial systems: the carbon cycle. Biogenic carbon is defined as the emissions related to the natural carbon cycle; these are separate from wider life cycle emissions such as those linked to use of fuel energy for harvesting or processing of biologically based materials. Bioenergy will be low carbon providing there is a close balance between emissions released to the atmosphere and the carbon stored as biomass materials (plants) grow (Figure 1). Accounting whole life cycle emissions from bioenergy systems and demonstrating that they deliver energy with reduced GHG emissions compared with fossil fuels is crucial if we are to meet national and international emissions reduction targets.

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