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Enhancing ecosystem services through targeted bioenergy support policies

Baumber, Alex
Ecosystem services 2017 v.26 pp. 98-110
arid lands, auctions, biodiversity, bioenergy, carbon sequestration, climate change, ecosystem services, energy crops, food security, forests, fuels, habitats, issues and policy, risk, salinity, soil, soil quality, uncertainty, water quality
While policy-makers in the bioenergy sector have paid considerable attention over the past decade to the risks that energy cropping can pose to forests, soils and food security, there has been less focus on how bioenergy policies can be designed to enhance ecosystem services. Some perennial energy crops have demonstrated the potential to provide habitat for biodiversity, improve soil health, enhance water quality, mitigate dryland salinity and sequester carbon. While much uncertainty exists around which forms of energy cropping might deliver these benefits, opportunities exist to preferentially support beneficial energy crops through the adaptation of existing bioenergy policies. This article provides a global review of bioenergy policy instruments that identifies existing and potential mechanisms for promoting the enhancement of ecosystem services. While many existing bioenergy support policies promote fuel supply (a provisioning service) and climate change mitigation (a regulating service), it is less common for bioenergy policies to actively enhance ecosystem services such as habitat provision, soil improvement and water regulation. Further opportunities to promote these ecosystem services exist through structured tax concessions, sub-mandates, banding and renewable energy auctions, but careful consideration needs to be given to trade-offs between services, risks of disservices and the need for complementary non-energy policies.