Task 38: Climate Change Effects of Biomass and Bioenergy Systems

Website: task38.ieabioenergy.com
Participating Countries: Australia, Finland, France, Germany, Sweden and the USA


Annette Cowie
School of Environmental and Rural Science
NSW Department of Primary Industries
Beef Industry Centre, Trevenna Road
University of New England
Armidale NSW 2351
Email: annette.cowie(at)dpi.nsw.gov.au


1.         Definitions and Objectives

(a)  Definitions

‘Greenhouse Gases’ (GHG), like carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and others, are gases that influence the radiation balance of the atmosphere. An increase of their concentration in the atmosphere is changing the earth’s climate. ‘GHG balances’ shall mean the accounting of emissions and removals of GHG from the atmosphere. ‘Bioenergy Systems’ means the set of all processes that are necessary to provide energy from biomass at its point of use. These processes include biomass production, transportation, storage, processing, conversion, and energy distribution. ‘Biomass Systems/Carbon Sequestration Systems’ means the set of all processes that are necessary for the removal of carbon from the atmosphere by the growth of biomass.


(b)        Objectives

Task 38 aims to:

  1. Promote the sustainable use of biomass and bioenergy through increased understanding of the climate change impacts of 
biomass production and utilisation for energy;
  2. Revise and promote the updated ‘standard methodology’ for the calculation of life cycle climate change impacts, incorporating 
current and emerging issues, technologies and topics;
  3. Work in cooperation with other IEA Bioenergy Tasks to assess the climate change impacts of new bioenergy technologies and 
production systems; and
  4. Aid decision makers in devising policy and selecting mitigation strategies that optimise climate change benefits by 
disseminating the results of the above-mentioned activities.

2.         Scope of the Task


(a)     The Participants will have R&D programmes within their countries in order to meet the above objectives;

(b)     The Participants will carry out co-operative research work towards reaching the objectives described in paragraph 1(b) above, based on the national R&D programmes referred to in sub-paragraph (a) above;


(c)     The Programme of Work will develop and demonstrate methods to quantify the climate change impacts of bioenergy systems through:

(i)         the assessment of climate change impacts of bioenergy supply chains included in the inter-Task project ‘Mobilising 
sustainable bioenergy supply chains’;

(ii)       The identification and analysis of bioenergy systems that utilise waste and residue streams so as to improve biomass use 
efficiency and minimise the competition with other uses of biomass

(iii)      The identification of land management systems that produce multiple feedstocks that integrate biomass production with other 
products and conservation objectives through integrated landscape management

(iv)      The consideration of risk and uncertainty in the estimation of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions

(v)       The assessment of the trade-offs between comprehensive life cycle assessment (LCA) and simplified GHG estimation 
methods; and

(vi)      The assessment of GHG impacts of emerging technologies relating to, for example, biogas, fast pyrolysis and aviation 

The Task will continue to cover: the three main greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4, and N2O), emissions and removals over the entire life cycle of biomass and bioenergy systems, all biomass pools (above and below-ground biomass, dead wood, litter, soils, and wood products in service and in landfills) and fossil fuels as an input to the system being studied. The assessment includes the various stages of a biomass/bioenergy system: land resource conversion, biomass production, transportation, conversion to energy, distribution, and end-use. The assessment is compared with a reference system (usually the business-as-usual activity).

(d)     The topic of Task 38 is cross-cutting, relevant to other Tasks focused on biomass supply, sustainability and specific conversion technologies.  During 2013-2015, the major avenue for collaboration will be through input to the inter-Task strategic project ‘Mobilising sustainable bioenergy supply chains’. Task 38 will have a role in all four working groups, contributing to operational analysis, sustainability analysis, systems analysis and synthesis. The major role will be in application of the improved standard methodology to assess the GHG implications and climate change aspects of the nominated case studies. Task 38 will also contribute to project coordination, selection of supply chains to be analysed, discussions on sustainability criteria and assessment, and development of recommendations.

Since 2019, the topic is assigned to Task 45

Triennium Report

Download the Task 38 Climate Change Effects of Biomass and Bioenergy Systems Triennium 2016-2018 Report