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A Life-Cycle Approach to Characterising Environmental and Economic Impacts of Multifunctional Land-Use Systems: An Integrated Assessment in the UK

Author

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  • Miguel Brandão

    () (Sustainability Assessment Unit, Institute of Environment and Sustainability, Joint Research Centre, European Commission, Via E. Fermi 2749, I-21027 Ispra (VA), Italy
    Centre for Environmental Strategy, University of Surrey, Guildford, GU2 7XH, UK)

  • Roland Clift

    () (Centre for Environmental Strategy, University of Surrey, Guildford, GU2 7XH, UK)

  • Llorenç Milà i Canals

    () (SEAC, Unilever R&D Colworth Park, Sharnbrook, Bedfordshire, MK44 1LQ, UK)

  • Lauren Basson

    () (Centre for Environmental Strategy, University of Surrey, Guildford, GU2 7XH, UK)

Abstract

An integrated environmental and economic assessment of land use for food, energy and timber in the UK has been performed using environmental Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and economic Life Cycle Costing (LCC), to explore complementary sustainability aspects of alternative land uses. The environmental assessment includes impacts on climate change, ecosystem services and biodiversity, all of which include soil carbon emissions. The systems explored include all processes from cradle to farm ‘gate’. The crops assessed were wheat and oilseed rape (under both organic and conventional farming systems), Scots Pine, and willow and Miscanthus . Food crops, particularly conventional food crops, are shown to have the highest climate-changing emissions per ha, whereas energy and forestry crops show negative net emissions. To a lesser extent, the same situation applies to impacts on ecosystems and biodiversity, with carbon storage in biomass playing a larger role than carbon in soils. The energy and forestry crops in this study show an overall beneficial environmental impact, in particular due to soil carbon sequestration, making these land uses the lowest contributors to climate change. Combining this with the non-renewable CO 2 emissions displaced will mean that energy crops have an even lower impact. Economically, conventional food crops present the highest costs per ha, followed by organic food crops, energy and forestry crops. Integrating the results from LCA and LCC shows that the climate impacts per monetary unit of all land uses are dominated by soil management and, in the case of food production, also by fertilisation. Taxes or incentives such as “carbon charging” will encourage changes in practice in these areas to improve the sustainability of land management, mainly by building up Soil Organic Carbon (SOC).

Suggested Citation

  • Miguel Brandão & Roland Clift & Llorenç Milà i Canals & Lauren Basson, 2010. "A Life-Cycle Approach to Characterising Environmental and Economic Impacts of Multifunctional Land-Use Systems: An Integrated Assessment in the UK," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 2(12), pages 1-30, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:2:y:2010:i:12:p:3747-3776:d:10597
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Fearnside, Philip M., 2002. "Time preference in global warming calculations: a proposal for a unified index," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(1), pages 21-31, April.
    2. Lomborg,Bjørn, 2001. "The Skeptical Environmentalist," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521010689.
    3. Dahlstrom, Kristina & Ekins, Paul, 2006. "Combining economic and environmental dimensions: Value chain analysis of UK iron and steel flows," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(3), pages 507-519, June.
    4. Searchinger, Timothy & Heimlich, Ralph & Houghton, R. A. & Dong, Fengxia & Elobeid, Amani & Fabiosa, Jacinto F. & Tokgoz, Simla & Hayes, Dermot J. & Yu, Hun-Hsiang, 2008. "Use of U.S. Croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases Through Emissions from Land-Use Change," Staff General Research Papers Archive 12881, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
    5. Philip Fearnside & Daniel Lashof & Pedro Moura-Costa, 2000. "Accounting for time in Mitigating Global Warming through land-use change and forestry," Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Springer, vol. 5(3), pages 239-270, September.
    6. Mitchell, Donald, 2008. "A note on rising food prices," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4682, The World Bank.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:gam:jsusta:v:9:y:2017:i:4:p:670-:d:96586 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Riccardo Testa & Anna Maria di Trapani & Filippo Sgroi & Salvatore Tudisca, 2014. "Economic Sustainability of Italian Greenhouse Cherry Tomato," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 6(11), pages 1-15, November.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    life cycle assessment (LCA); life cycle costing (LCC); land use; agriculture; silviculture; energy Crops; bioenergy;

    JEL classification:

    • Q - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics
    • Q0 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q3 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products

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