Land use change emissions from oil palm expansion in Pará, Brazil depend on proper policy enforcement on deforested lands
Brazil aims to increase palm oil production to meet the growing national and global demand for edible oil and biodiesel while preserving environmentally and culturally significant areas. As land use change (LUC) is the result of complex interactions between socio-economic and biophysical drivers operating at multiple temporal and spatial scales, the type and location of LUC depend on drivers such as neighboring land use, conversion elasticity, access to infrastructure, distance to markets, and land suitability. The purpose of this study is to develop scenarios to measure the impact of land conversion under three different enforcement scenarios (none, some, and strict enforcement). We found that converting 22.5 million hectares of land can produce approximately 29 billion gallons (110 billion liters) of biodiesel a year. Of that, 22-71% of the area can come from forest land, conservation units, wetland and indigenous areas, emitting 14-84 gCO2e MJ-1. This direct land use emission alone can be higher than the carbon intensity of diesel that it intends to displace for lowering greenhouse gas emissions. This letter focuses narrowly on GHG emissions and does not address socio-economic-ecological prospects for these degraded lands for palm oil or for other purposes. Future studies should carefully evaluate these tradeoffs.