The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment

, Volume 17, Issue 8, pp 962–972 | Cite as

Including CO2 implications of land occupation in LCAs—method and example for livestock products

Land use IN LCA

Abstract

Purpose

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.

Method

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.

Results

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.

Conclusions

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.

Keywords

Agriculture Carbon sink Land occupation land-use LCA Livestock 

References

  1. 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
  2. Casey JW, Holden NM (2005) Analysis of greenhouse gas emissions from the average Irish milk production system. Agric Sys 86:97–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Casey JW, Holden NM (2006) Greenhouse gas emissions from conventional, agri-environmental scheme and organic Irish suckler-beef-units. J Environ Qual 35:231–239CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 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
  5. Curran MA (1993) Broad-based environmental life cycle assessment. Environ Sci Technol 27(3):430–436CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. Ewing B, Reed A, Rizk SM, Galli A, Wackernagel M, Kitzes J (2008) Calculation Methodology for the National Footprint Accounts, 2008 Edition OaklandGoogle Scholar
  9. Fargione J, Hill J, Tilman D, Polasky S, Hawthorne P (2008) Land clearing and the biofuel carbon debt. Science 319(5867):1235–1238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 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
  11. Gerber P, Vellinga T, Opio C, Henderson B, Steinfeld H (2010) Greenhouse gas emissions from the dairy sector—a life cycle assessmentGoogle Scholar
  12. 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
  13. Haas G, Wetterich F, Köpke U (2001) Comparing intensive, extensified and organic grassland farming in southern Germany by process life cycle assessment. Agric Ecosyst Environ 83:43–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Haberl H, Erb KH, Krausmann F, Gaube V, Bondeau A, Plutzar C, Gingrich S, Lucht W, Fischer-Kowalski M (2007) Quantifying and mapping the human appropriation of net primary production in earth’s terrestrial ecosystems. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 104(31):12942–12947CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hendrickson C, Horvath A, Joshi S, Lave L (1998) Economic input–output models for environmental life-cycle assessment. Environ Sci Technol 32(7):184A–191ACrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hirschfeld J, Weiß J, Preidl M, Korbun T (2008) Klimawirkungen der Landwirtschaft in Deutschland. Schriftenreihe des IÖW vol 186/08Google Scholar
  17. 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
  18. 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
  19. ISO (2006) Environmental management—Life cycle assessment: requirements and guidelines. International Organization for Standardization (ISO), GenevaGoogle Scholar
  20. Kendall A, Chang B, Sharpe B (2009) Accounting for time-dependent effects in biofuel life cycle greenhouse gas emissions calculations. Environ Sci Technol 43(18):7142–7147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kitzes J, Galli A, Rizk SM, Reed A, Wackernagel M (2008) Guidebook to the national footprint accounts: 2008 edition. Global Footprint Network, OaklandGoogle Scholar
  22. Klein Goldewijk K, Van Minnen JG, Kreileman GJJ, Vloedbeld M, Leemans R (1994) Simulation of the carbon flux between the terrestrial environment and the atmosphere. Water Air Soil Pollut 76:199–230CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kløverpris J, Wenzel H, Banse M, Milà i Canals L, Reenberg A (2008) Conference and workshop on modelling global land-use implications in the environmental assessment of biofuels. Int J Life Cycle Assess 13(3):178–183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kløverpris J, Baltzer K, Nielsen PH (2010) Life cycle inventory modelling of land-use induced by crop consumption: part 2: example of wheat consumption in Brazil, China, Denmark and the USA. Int J Life Cycle Assess 15(1):90–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 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
  26. Levasseur A, Lesage P, Margni M, Deschěnes L, Samson R (2010) Considering time in LCA: dynamic LCA and its application to global warming impact assessments. Environ Sci Technol 44(8):3169–3174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Melillo JM, Reilly JM, Kicklighter DW, Gurgel AC, Cronin TW, Paltsev S, Felzer BS, Wang X, Sokolov AP, Schlosser CA (2009) Indirect emissions from biofuels: how important? Science 326(5958):1397–1399CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Milà i Canals L, Bauer C, Depestele J, Dubrscseuil A, Knuchel RF, Gaillard G, Michelsen O, Müller-Wenk R, Rydgren B (2007) Key elements in a framework for land-use impact assessment within LCA. Int J Life Cycle Assess 12:5–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. MNP (2006) Integrated modelling of global environmental change. An overview of IMAGE 2.4. Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (MNP), The NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  30. Müller-Wenk R, Brandão M (2010) Climatic impact of land-use in LCA-carbon transfers between vegetation/soil and air. Int J Life Cycle Assess 15:172–182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Nguyen TLT, Hermansen JE, Mogensen L (2010) Environmental consequences of different beef production systems in the EU. J Cleaner Prod 18:756–766CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 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
  33. Ogino A, Orito H, Shimada K, Hirooka H (2007) Evaluating environmental impacts of the Japanese beef cow–calf system by the life cycle assessment method. Anim Sci J 78(4):424–432CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Overmars KP, Stehfest E, Ros JPM, Prins AG (2011) Indirect land-use change emissions related to EU biofuel consumption: an analysis based on historical data. Environ Sci Policy 14(3):248–257CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Plevin RJ, O’Hare M, Jones AD, Torn MS, Gibbs HK (2010) Greenhouse gas emissions from biofuels’ indirect land-use change are uncertain but may be much greater than previously estimated. Environ Sci Technol 44(21):8015–8021CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 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
  37. 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
  38. Searchinger T, Heimlich R, Houghton RA, Dong F, Elobeid A, Fabiosa J, Tokgoz S, Hayes D, Yu TH (2008) Use of U.S. croplands for biofuels increases greenhouse gases through emissions from land-use change. Science 319(5867):1238–1240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Stehfest E, Bouwman L, van Vuuren DP, den Elzen MGJ, Eickhout B, Kabat P (2009) Climate benefits of changing diet. Clim Change 95(1–2):83–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 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
  41. Taheripour F, Hertel TW, Tyner WE, Beckman JF, Birur DK (2010) Biofuels and their by-products: global economic and environmental implications. Biomass Bioenergy 34(3):278–289CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 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
  43. USEPA (2010) Renewable Fuel Standard Program (RFS2) Regulatory Impact AnalysisGoogle Scholar
  44. Van Minnen JG, Leemans R, Ihle F (2000) Assessing consequences of dynamic changes in global vegetation patterns, using the IMAGE 2.1 model. Glob Chang Biol 6:595–611CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 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
  46. 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

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Food Science and TechnologyBOKU—University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences ViennaViennaAustria
  2. 2.PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment AgencyBilthovenThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations