Conference and workshop on modelling global land use implications in the environmental assessment of biofuels
- Cite this article as:
- Kløverpris, J., Wenzel, H., Banse, M. et al. Int J Life Cycle Assess (2008) 13: 178. doi:10.1065/lca2008.03.381
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Background, Aims and Scope
On 4–5 June 2007, an international conference was held in Copenhagen. It provided an interdisciplinary forum where economists and geographers met with LCA experts to discuss the challenges of modelling the ultimate land use changes caused by an increased demand for biofuels.
The main feature of the conference was the cross-breeding of experience from the different approaches to land use modelling: The field of LCA could especially benefit from economic modelling in the identification of marginal crop production and the resulting expansion of the global agricultural area. Furthermore, the field of geography offers insights in the complexity behind new land cultivation and practical examples of where this is seen to occur on a regional scale.
Results presented at the conference showed that the magnitude and location of land use changes caused by biofuels demand depend on where the demand arises. For instance, mandatory blending in the EU will increase land use both within and outside of Europe, especially in South America. A key learning for the LCA society was that the response to a change in demand for a given crop is not presented by a single crop supplier or a single country, but rather by responses from a variety of suppliers of several different crops in several countries.
The intensification potential of current and future crop and biomass production was widely discussed. It was generally agreed that some parts of the third world hold large potentials for intensification, which are not realised due to a number of barriers resulting in so-called yield gaps.
Modelling the global land use implications of biofuels requires an interdisciplinary approach optimally integrating economic, geographical, biophysical, social and possibly other aspects in the modelling. This interdisciplinary approach is necessary but also difficult due to different perspectives and mindsets in the different disciplines.
Recommendations and Perspectives
The concept of a location dependent marginal land use composite should be introduced in LCA of biofuels and it should be acknowledged that the typical LCA assumption of linear substitution is not necessarily valid. Moreover, fertiliser restrictions/accessibility should be included in land use modelling and the relation between crop demand and intensification should be further explored. In addition, environmental impacts of land use intensification should be included in LCA, the powerful concept of land use curves should be further improved, and so should the modelling of diminishing returns in crop production.