Indirect Land Use Change Model (iLUC)

How to model of indirect land use change (iLUC) in LCA? The iLUC Club develops and further refines a generic, simple and science-based model for including iLUC in LCA.

The client

Crowdfunded project

Our role

2.-0 LCA consultants have started an initiative to model the indirect Land Use Change (iLUC). The iLUC club is open to everyone. By subscribing you become a partner and have access to a various tools including methodology and data to apply the model.

More about iLUC

More than 10% of global GHG emissions are related to land use changes (LUC). This is almost the same as global GHG emissions from transport and around half of global GHG emissions from electricity produced from coal. The magnitude of LUC emissions clearly indicates that excluding this from LCA is highly problematic. In addition, several LCIA methods suggest that land use related impacts are much more important than GHG emissions (Weidema 2015). This makes the exclusion of LUC from LCA even more problematic.

Often, the impacts from indirect land use change (iLUC) are lacking in LCA studies – or at the best, it is modelled without reasonable considerations on cause-effect relationships between the use of land and the induced effects. If iLUC impacts are not included properly in the LCA results, there is a great risk of producing misleading results. Therefore, there is an urgent need for a good generic way of modelling iLUC. This should not be limited to biofuels or some certain crops in a certain region. There is a need for a generic model that can be applied to all kinds of land using LCA processes (cultivation of crops, cattle grassland, forestry, and land for buildings and infrastructure).

In order to make such a model available, we established the iLUC Club in 2011, which now has more than 20 universities and companies as members. We are currently working on the fifth version of the model which makes use of global land use change matrices and satellite data. The model framework is documented in a peer reviewed scientic article: A framework for modelling indirect land use changes in life cycle assessment. The model has been compared with other iLUC models in a scientific paper, where it was ranked as the best performing with regard to several criteria. Further, we actively contribute to the ongoing scientific debate on iLUC.

The model strives towards establishing a cause-effect relationship between, on the one side:

  • the demand for land (e.g. 1 ha year agricultural land in UK to produce 6 tonnes wheat),

and on the other side:

  • the effects on land transformation (especially deforestation in South America and South East Asia), and
  • intensification (which is also affected as a consequence of changes in demand for land).

The model has been tested and applied in several studies:

Subscription to the iLUC Club gives access to:

  • The iLUC model including documentation of the methodology and data.
  • Any future updates of the report; the fourth version was released in 2015, and we are currently working on the fifth version
  • Contributing to the iLUC project
  • iLUC module for SimaPro (CSV file)

An important open source output from the project is a file with the needed information for obtaining iLUC GHG emission data for any land use (arable, forest, grassland) in any country in the world (Downloadable file).

The current members include:

  • major global food industries; including producers involved in agriculture, manufacturing of major food items to the bulk market, and manufactures of special ingredients
  • paper packaging industry
  • the Sustainability Consortium
  • the ecoinvent database
  • energy companies in Denmark and France
  • universities in Denmark and Sweden
  • consultancy companies in Denmark, Norway and Sweden

On occasion of the 10th anniversary of our engagement with iLUC (15th Nov. 2017) we held a free webinar – the recording from this webinar can be seen here (youtube video) and the slides here (pdf).

For subscription (or questions), please contact us. To go to the club click here.