Calculating greenhouse gas emissions from land use change
Deforestation is one of the biggest issues facing the global agriculture production system and a big contributor to climate change worldwide. A well-known example is the clearance of forests to cultivate crops, such as soybean and oil palm. Globally, forest coverage continues to decrease by an astonishing average of 4.7 million hectares every year (FAO, 2020).
Within Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) studies it is often a requirement to report the emissions emerging from Land Use Change (LUC) separately. This can become rather complex because data availability is limited. Many studies provide global or country-specific estimations based on statistics or satellite imagery. However, for LCA researchers it can be challenging to translate this impact into specific crops from specific countries due to a lack of primary data.
We specifically designed our LUC Impact products to address this challenge and provide solutions.
Overview of LUC Impact products
A web-based tool support you to calculate direct and statistical LUC emissions and discover LUC hotspots in an effortless way. It also empowers you to analyze multiple scenarios and obtain complementing insights on LUC methods.
The dataset offers an overview of LUC GHG emissions for 9,000+ crop-country combinations. Results are calculated with the LUC Impact Tool and entail both equal amortization (PAS2050-1) and linear amortization (SBTi FLAG guidelines).
A 4-hour interactive session about Land Use Change Accounting. This training offers you context, background information and critical perspectives on the multiple methodological choices and challenges related to LUC accounting.
Web-based tool to calculate GHG emissions from LUC
The Land Use Change Impact Tool is a web-based tool that provides a predefined way of calculating Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from LUC. It offers insight into land transformation and associated emissions related to specific country-crop combinations across different scenarios. The tool also lets you select specific land management practices that influence soil organic carbon content, such as tillage level and organic input level, to represent the specific cultivation system’s carbon stock more accurately.
The LUC Impact Tool offers 3 basic functionalities to calculate direct land use change, based on your data availability:
- Country & land use known: If the previous land use is known, for example through analysis of satellite images, this functionality can be used to calculate the greenhouse gas emissions related to the actual conversion.
- Country known & Land Use unknown: This functionality calculates land conversions and related emissions based on statistics (also called statistical LUC or sLUC) and uses the latest data from FAO, up to and including 2020. Emissions, insights in intermediate results and visual representations of the underlying data are available for 9,000+ crop-country combinations.
- Country & land use unknown: If the sourcing country of the crop is unknown, this function provides a global production-based weighted average LUC emissions.
LUC methodologies: linear and equal amortization
The tool builds upon the latest LUC standards, such as the SBTi Forest Land and Agriculture (FLAG) guidelines. The SBTi FLAG guidelines require linear discounting, which assigns more emissions to the years directly after the LUC event. As such, we have updated the tool to offer the possibility to perform LUC calculations with both linear and equal discounting.
Find more information in the LUC Impact Tool Methodology Report.
Innovative and exclusive feature:
'Carbon Opportunity Cost'
One of the innovative features of the LUC Impact Tool is ‘Carbon Opportunity Cost’ (COC). It gives you insights in the missed potential carbon stocks on agricultural land. Most of the existing LUC methods, which are recommended in LCA standards, focus on recent conversions of land. However, not only just recently converted land, but all land occupation comes at a carbon cost. The COC method helps to determine the carbon stock capacity of land in its natural state and assess the gap between this potential stock and the current carbon stock.
The carbon opportunity cost in the LUC Impact Tool is a simplified version of the method proposed by Searchinger (et al., 2018), to account for the difference between the carbon stock (in soil and vegetation) potential natural situation (PNV)  , compared to the current use as agricultural land. With these insights we provide another perspective on lost carbon stocks related to land use, and thus complement the LUC emissions from other methods.
LUC Impact Tool supports you to:
Calculate direct LUC emissions
Calculate direct and statistical LUC emissions LUC emissions  and discover LUC hotspots in an effortless way.
LUC standards & guidelines
Report LUC emission influenced by different international LUC standards and guidelines, such as PAS2050, draft GHG protocol and SBTi FLAG.
Analyze multiple scenarios and adjust parameters, such different amortization periods and methods, and land management practices.
Obtain complementing insights on LUC methods, based on statistics and through the new ‘Carbon Opportunity Cost’ functionality.
The LUC Impact dataset provides LUC greenhouse emissions for 9,000+ crop-country combinations, including emission results calculated using both linear and equal amortization in compliance with footprinting standards such as PAS2050-1 and SBTi FLAG.
The dataset comes as an Excel file and gives the results of the three calculation methods from the ‘country known, land use unknown’ functionality of the tool. The weighted average takes into account relative differences in crop expansion at the expense of forest, grassland, annual/perennial. The normal average is a simple average of these options. All results are scaled to the relative amount of expansion of the crop. The worst case of the average and weighted average is used in the PAS2050-1 protocol.
It is available for a licensing fee of €540 (excl. VAT).
If you wish to integrate the data into your commercial tool, please contact us to request a special license.
Get individualized training for your team
The Land Use Change (LUC) training is a 4-hour, interactive session about Land Use Change accounting. The training offers context, background information, and critical perspectives on the multiple methodological choices and challenges related to LUC accounting. After a general introduction, we dive into the methodology used in our LUC Impact tool and necessary methodological considerations, including a short demonstration of the tool. Next, we explore some critical notes on so-called LUC-free certificates and proposed solutions to LUC. Finally, we explain and compare alternative methods to LUC accounting, such as accounting of carbon opportunity costs. There is ample room (about 1,5 hours) to ask questions and have open discussions during this training session. We can initiate the themes of these discussions, or you can request topics that are relevant to your current projects. The trainings are:
- Online or on location in Gouda, or we travel to your office
- Available upon request (and subject to availability of our LUC experts)
- Up to 8 participants per group
Get in touch with us to discuss the opportunities.
LCA database for plant-based ingredients for Pulse Canada
With the help of the LUC Impact Tool, Blonk has developed a new LCA database for plant-based ingredients for Pulse Canada, the Industry Association for Canadian pulse growers and exporters. The database combines country-specific datasets of common pulses, such as soybean and peas, with regionalized datasets. We used the recently updated LUC Impact Tool to include the CO2 emissions equivalent related to land-use change. The tool enabled us to calculate the emissions and removal of greenhouse gases caused by land-use conversion, specifically for growing soybeans and peas in particular geographical areas. In addition, it was possible to account for the influence of different tillage practices on carbon stocks and the resulting CO2 emissions equivalent.
 Blonk only calculates the direct effect of LUC. Indirect LUC (iLUC) is not taken into account, which refers to “land use changes elsewhere, resulting from changes in demand to a specific crop from a specific country.” For instance: more carbon emissions due to land use changes induced by the expansion of agricultural lands for biofuels.
Get in touch
Please get in touch with Jixin if you would like to learn more about the LUC Impact products and its applications or if you are interested in a license.