Including CO2 implications of land occupation in LCAs—method and example for livestock products
- First Online:
Until recently, life cycle assessments (LCAs) have only addressed the direct greenhouse gas emissions along a process chain, but ignored the CO2 emissions of land-use. However, for agricultural products, these emissions can be substantial. Here, we present a new methodology for including the implications of land occupation for CO2 emissions to realistically reflect the consequences of consumers’ decisions.
In principle, one can distinguish five different approaches of addressing the CO2 consequences of land occupation: (1) assuming constant land cover, (2) land-use change related to additional production of the product under consideration, (3) historic land-use change, assuming historical relations between existing area and area expansion (4) land-use change related to less production of the product under consideration (“missed potential carbon sink” of land occupation), and (5) an approach of integrating land conversion emissions and delayed uptake due to land occupation. Approach (4) is presented in this paper, using LCA data on land occupation, and carbon dynamics from the IMAGE model. Typically, if less production occurs, agricultural land will be abandoned, leading to a carbon sink when vegetation is regrowing. This carbon sink, which does not occur if the product would still be consumed, is thus attributed to the product as “missed potential carbon sink”, to reflect the CO2 implications of land occupations.
We analyze the missed potential carbon sink by relating land occupation data from LCA studies to the potential carbon sink as calculated by an Integrated Global Assessment Model and its process-based, spatially explicit carbon cycle model. Thereby, we account for regional differences, heterogeneity in land-use, and different time horizons. Example calculations for several livestock products show that the CO2 consequences of land occupation can be in the same order of magnitude as the other process related greenhouse gas emissions of the LCA, and depend largely on the production system. The highest CO2 implications of land occupation are calculated for beef and lamb, with beef production in Brazil having a missed potential carbon sink more than twice as high as the other GHG emissions.
Given the significant contribution of land occupation to the total GHG balance of agricultural products, they need to be included in life cycle assessments in a realistic way. The new methodology presented here reflects the consequences of producing or not producing a certain commodity, and thereby it is suited to inform consumers fully about the consequences of their choices.
KeywordsAgriculture Carbon sink Land occupation land-use LCA Livestock
- Blonk H, Kool A, Luske B (2008) Environmental effects of protein-rich food products in the Netherlands. “<http://www.blonkmilieuadvies.nl/nl/pdf/englishsummaryprotein-richproducts.pdf>”. English summary of “Milieueffecten Nederlandse consumptie van eiwitrijke producten”. Blonk Milieu Advies BV, Gouda
- Cederberg C, Flysjö A (2004) Life cycle inventory of 23 dairy farms in south-western Sweden. SIK Rapport No. 728. Swedish Institute for Food and BiotechnologyGoogle Scholar
- Doka G, Hillier W, Kaila S, Köllner T, Kreißig J, Muys B, Quijano JG, Salpakivi-Salomaa P, Schweinle J, Swan G, Wessman H (2002) The Assessment of Environmental Impacts caused by land-use in the Life Cycle Assessment of Forestry and Forest Products. Final Report of Working Group 2 “land-use” of COST Action E9Google Scholar
- BFE Bundesamt für Energie (2009) Schweizer Autos sind immer noch zu durstig. http://www.bfe.admin.ch/energie/00588/00589/00644/index.html?lang=de&msg-id=26779
- Ewing B, Reed A, Rizk SM, Galli A, Wackernagel M, Kitzes J (2008) Calculation Methodology for the National Footprint Accounts, 2008 Edition OaklandGoogle Scholar
- Forster C, Green K, Bleda M, Dewick P, Evans B, Flynn A, Mylan J (2006) Environmental impacts of food production and consumption: A report to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Manchester Business School, DefraGoogle Scholar
- Gerber P, Vellinga T, Opio C, Henderson B, Steinfeld H (2010) Greenhouse gas emissions from the dairy sector—a life cycle assessmentGoogle Scholar
- Guinee JB, Goree M, Heijungs R, Huppes G, Kleijn R, de Koning A, van Oers L, Wegener Sleeswijk A, Suh S, Udo de Haes HA, de Bruijn HA, van Duin R, Huijbregts MAJ (2002) Handbook on life cycle assessment operational guide to the ISO standards. Int J Life Cycle Assess 7(5):311–313CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Hirschfeld J, Weiß J, Preidl M, Korbun T (2008) Klimawirkungen der Landwirtschaft in Deutschland. Schriftenreihe des IÖW vol 186/08Google Scholar
- IPCC (1996) Revised 1996 IPCC guidelines for national greenhouse gas inventories. In: Houghton JT, Meira Filho LG, Lim B, Treanton K, Mamaty I, Bonduki Y, Griggs DJ, Callender BA (eds) IPCC/OECD/IEA. UK Meteorological Office, BracknellGoogle Scholar
- IPCC (2007) Mitigation of climate change. In: Metz B, Davidson O, Bosch P, Dave R, Meyer L (eds) Contribution of Working Group III to the fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- ISO (2006) Environmental management—Life cycle assessment: requirements and guidelines. International Organization for Standardization (ISO), GenevaGoogle Scholar
- Kitzes J, Galli A, Rizk SM, Reed A, Wackernagel M (2008) Guidebook to the national footprint accounts: 2008 edition. Global Footprint Network, OaklandGoogle Scholar
- Lane B (2006) Life Cycle Assessment of Vehicle Fuels and Technologies. Report by Ecolane Transport Consultancy on behalf of London Borough of Camden. http://www.ecolane.co.uk/content/dcs/Camden_LCA_Report_FINAL_10_03_2006.pdf
- MNP (2006) Integrated modelling of global environmental change. An overview of IMAGE 2.4. Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (MNP), The NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
- O’Hare M, Plevin RJ, Martin JI, Jones AD, Kendall A, Hopson E (2009) Proper accounting for time increases crop-based biofuels’ greenhouse gas deficit versus petroleum. Environ Res Let 4 (2) (024001)Google Scholar
- Ponsioen TC, Blonk TJ (2011) Calculating land-use change in carbon footprints of agricultural products as an impact of current land-use. J Cleaner Prod. doi:10.1016/j.jclepro.2011.10.014
- Rogner H-H, Zhou D, Bradley R, Crabbé P, Edenhofer O, Hare B, Kuijpers L, Yamaguchi M (2007) Introduction. In: Metz B, Davidson OR, Bosch PR, Dave R, Meyer LA (eds) Climate Change 2007: mitigation. contribution of working group III to the fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UKGoogle Scholar
- Steinfeld H, Gerber P, Wassenaar T, Castel V, Rosales M, de Haan C (2006) Livestock’s long shadow. Environmental issues and options. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), RomeGoogle Scholar
- Thomassen MA, van Calker KJ, Smits MCJ, Iepema GL, de Boer IJM (2007) Life cycle assessment of conventional and organic milk production in the Netherlands. Agric Sys 96(1–3):95–107Google Scholar
- USEPA (2010) Renewable Fuel Standard Program (RFS2) Regulatory Impact AnalysisGoogle Scholar
- VCD—Verkehrsclub Deutschland (2008) CO2-Grenzwerte für Pkw. http://www.vcd.org/index.php?eID=tx_nawsecuredl&u=0&file=fileadmin/user_upload/redakteure_2010/themen/auto_umwelt/CO2-Grenzwert/080303_vcd-hintergrund_co2-1grenzwert.pdf&t=1279362428&hash=928fb842b2348ae64e71c714766a55e2
- Weidema BP, Lindeijer E (2001) Physical impacts of land-use in product life cycle assessment. Final report of the EURENVIRON-LCAGAPS sub-project on land-use. Department of Manufacturing Engineering and Management, Technical University of Denmark, LyngbyGoogle Scholar
- Williams et al (2006) Determining the environmental burdens and resource use in the production of agricultural and horticultural commodities. Main report. Defra Research Project ISO205. Bedford, Cranfield University and DefraGoogle Scholar