Modelling indirect land‑use changes in Life Cycle Assessment

This course is dedicated to the state-of-the-art modelling of agricultural systems that incur in indirect land-use changes (iLUC), which arise from increasing demand for agricultural products (particularly biofuels). It includes both lectures and exercises.

The course


  • Environmental context: impacts of deforestation on climate change and biodiversity
  • Methodological context: ascribing land-use changes to their drivers
  • Policy context: EU Directive on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources; US Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007
  • Model completeness: geographical boundaries, Geographical Information Systems
  • Impact assessment modelling: biofuels, food security, climate and biodiversity; carbon and nitrogen cycles; accounting for biogenic carbon: temporal issues
  • Land use: intensification, expansion and displacement; identifying reference land-use systems (e.g. set-aside); average and marginal crop yields
  • Constraints and substitution effects: identifying constraints and their implications for modelling; identifying, quantifying and assessing substitution effects; identifying the magnitude and source of marginal production
  • Data modelling: attributing impacts from (indirect) land-use change to specific products; difference between attributional and consequential approaches in modelling iLUC; allocation
  • Economic equilibrium: (price) elasticities of supply and demand; general and partial economic-equilibrium modelling
  • Sources of uncertainty and ways for addressing these
  • Communication aspects

Form and academic recognition:

Form: 10 hours lectures. 10 hours workshops/exercises. Additional 5-hour follow-up course work if ECTS-points are requested.
Academic recognition: 2 ECTS points. This includes reading a mandatory list of literature.

Learning outcomes:

  • Ability to include iLUC impacts into system models
  • Understanding of the difference between different modelling approaches and their implications for estimating iLUC
  • Understanding of the existence of production constraints and the use of marginal data
  • Ability to perform the steps involved in expanding a system with multiple co-products (e.g. biofuel and feed)
  • Understanding of the sources of uncertainty in iLUC models and ability to apply the techniques available to quantify these

Participant prerequisites:

A good understanding and/or experience with life cycle assessment of agricultural products (especially biofuels). Must bring own laptop computer.