Frequently Asked Questions

LUC Impact Tool and Dataset

Do you have any other questions about the LUC Impact Tool or Dataset, such as the calculation method, use of data or the difference between the tool and the dataset? Please find some FAQ below, or get in touch with us. 

Land Use Change Calculation methods

What are the calculation methods available in the LUC Impact tool?

Four LUC calculation methods are implemented in the LUC Impact tool:

  1. "Previous land use known",
  2. "Previous land use unknown, country known",
  3. "Previous land use unknown, country unknown", 
  4. "Carbon opportunity cost".

What method is used in EPDs (Environmental Product Declarations)

In general, EPDs follow LCA methodology and thus should adhere to ISO 14040/44. These standards do not specify a specific LUC methodology. For the building industry, the leading standard for EPDs is the EN 15804. In its update in 2019, this standard prescribes the use of the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) guidance for the calculation of LUC. The PEF refers to the PAS2050 standard for LUC calculations, which recomments the use of statistic LUC calculations (in case direct LUC based on farm-level data is not available) based on product expansion and appyling equal amortization. This method is integrated in the LUC impact tool.

How differs the LUC Impact Methodology from LANCA method?

The LANCA method focusses on land and soil quality during land occupation and is an indicator used for land use. This method focusses on quantifying emissions (part of global warming indicator) of land use change. 

What will the corrections for double cropping be based on?

Most likely, we will include a correction for land efficiency in the next update of the LUC Impact tool, which is based on the national difference between land occupied for cultivation (of certain crop types) and harvested area (of certain crop types). For example: In case a hectare is harvested twice per year, the harvested area would be 2 hectares for that year, but the land occupation would be 1 hectare for that year. 

Does the tool have a unit of tons of CO2 eq/ tons of crop

The tool expresses results in tons CO2eq./hectare cropland, the average yield for the crop (from FAO statistics) is also shown in the results overview, so this conversion can be made easily. We choose to show the value per hectare cropland to align with the unit used in lifecycle inventories.

Calculation steps

How is the statistical dLUC impact calculated according to PAS 2050:2012, for "Previous land use unknown, country known"?

Methodology of the calculation is explained in detail in the PAS 2050:2012 (the standard is specific for horticulture, but the dLUC calculation applies to all crops).
Procedure to calculate emissions from dLUC:

  1. Expansion and contraction of forest and grassland per country (as defined in PAS 2050) are based on FAO land occupation change in 20 years.
  2. Expansion and contraction of specific crop is based on FAO harvested area change in 20 years. Cropland is either classified as perennial or annual cropland.
  3. For each crop: transformation in hectares from forest, grassland, perennial crop and annual crop is calculated.
    a. The weighted average takes into account relative differences in crop expansion at the expense of forest, grassland, annual/perennial based on the expansion/contraction of forest, grassland and cropland. 
    b. The normal average is a simple average of these options (all 1/3). 
    c. All results are scaled to the relative amount of expansion of the crop. This is described in PAS 2050.
  4. Based on worldwide climate and soil types provided by EU, climate zone and soil types are selected which are representable for the country. With this, carbon stock can be calculated. For forest land, specific biomass is obtained per country from the Global forest resources assessment 2020. For grassland, biomass is derived from continent and climate condition (based on European commission data and IPCC values). Soil carbon content is based on IPCC 2019 soil carbon defaults for climate regions and soil types, stock change factors from IPCC 2019 are used to calculate the soil carbon stock for different land use and land management practices. Biomass of crops is obtained from either the IPCC or PAS 2050, one value represents all annual crops and another all perennial crops.
  5. Change in carbon stock between previous and current land use is multiplied with 44/12 to obtain kg CO2. This is divided equally over 20 years (multiplied with 1/20).
  6. The crop yield is derived from FAOSTAT and determines impact per kg product.

Amortization options: linear and equal discounting

What amortization options do you offer in the LUC Impact Tool?

Three amortization methods are offered in the LUC Impact Tool:

  1. "Equal amortization (in line with PAS 2050)",
  2. "Equal amortization (in line with GHG protocol)", 
  3. "Linear amortization (in line with SBTi-FLAG guidances and GHG protocol)".

They are available for the two calculation methods "Previous land use unknown, country known" and "Previous lands use unknown, country unknown". 

Would linear or equal discounting be used in relation to emission factors?

The amortization or discounting is already integrated in the emission factors provided in the tool, so no need for additional multiplication with discounting factors by the user.

The GHG protocol for land sector currently allows for both linear and equal discounting, do you expect that this will be aligned with SBTi FLAG requirement for linear discounting?

Indeed, the draft GHG protocol Land Sector and Removals guidance allows for both linear and equal amortization. We do expect a preference of both parties (GHGP and SBTI FLAG) to align on the requirements for LUC accounting and reduce the 'degrees of freedom'.

Carbon stock calculation

What carbon vegetation (Cveg) and soil organic carbon (SOC) are being taken into account in the LUC Impact tool? Does this come from average values from other tropical crops?

The carbon stock will depend on the country in analysis.  

Basically, the carbon stock takes into consideration the carbon vegetation (Cveg), which is composed of below- and above- ground carbon stock and soil organic carbon. In our LUC model, to assess the carbon stock, we consider:

  1. Carbon vegetation (Cveg): it takes into account values adapted from Table 11 of the European Commission decision and the values depend on continent, climate and if crop is perennial or annual. (If the country has different types of climate, we take into account the two most prevalent).  
  2. Soil organic carbon (SOC): it takes into account values from Table 2.3 from IPCC 2006 (no refinements in IPCC 2019 refinements) Volume 4, which also depends on climate and soil type. For soil organic carbon, we need to know the specific country (see table).
  3. Once the carbon vegetation and soil organic carbon is summed up, we multiply by stock change factor (Table 5.5, IPCC 2019 refinements, Volume 4). The values depend on management type and climate. 

Conversion emissions

For annual crops, are the emissions from transformation of annual cropland to current cropland set to zero?

Indeed, this transformation does not lead to a carbon stock difference, and so results in 0 kg CO2 eq. This is because we do not differentiate the carbon stock of different annual crops. Both the soil carbon stock and the vegetation carbon stock are the same for all annual crops.

Data

What is the definition of Grasslands in the LUC Impact tool?

For Grassland we use the FAO land use category: “Land under perm. meadows and pastures”, which refers to land used permanently (five years or more) to grow herbaceous forage crops, either cultivated or growing wild (wild prairie or grazing land).

What FAO data is used in the LUC tool?

These are the FAO items used for forest and grassland:
Item, FAO Item, FAO Element
Land under perm. meadows and pastures, 6655, 5110
Forest land, 6646, 5110
In addition, for each crop and country, we use FAO data from “Crops and livestock products”: area harvested over the last 20 years.

Are LUC events caused by feed production of cattle included in emission factors for meat or dairy?

In the LUC dataset, figures are provided per crop-country combination. If the feed composition is known, than the LUC emissions related to animal products can be calculated. Our LCI database: Agri-footprint contains information on representative feed composition for several animal production systems in different countries in the world, therefore Agri-footprint is the best source of LUC emissions for animal products.

How is the cut off time defined?

Since the LUC Impact dataset is developed based on FAO data, the cut off time is (the year of the most recent FAO data - 20 years). For example, if the most recent FAO data is from 2020, then the cut off time is 2000. 
We use the three-year average to calculate impact results. For example, if the cut off time is year 2000, then the results in that year is actually a three-year average of 2000, 2001, and 2002.

Why the impact values for certain processes have changed in the latest version of the LUC Impact dataset?

The change in values in different versions is due to the update in FAO data. Sometimes FAO updates the historical data together with the new data release. LUC Impact dataset is always calculated with the latest FAO data. Therefore, changes in this source will result in value changes in the dataset.

When you receive updated FAO data will those data be over the period 2020-2021 only or is there a chance that also data of earliers years will be revised again?

There is a chance that data before the 2020-2021 period will change. For example, we have seen some historic changes in grassland area over time in Argentina, and there are several other examples. This influences all results (also calculated for earlier years). Once we updated the background data in the LUC Impact tool, we will enable the user to switch back to previous versions of data, to trace back previous results. You can observe the underlying data in the 'Time series' view.

Definition results

What is the difference between the weighted average, normal average and worst case results?

  • Weighted average: conversions of forestland to cropland and grassland to cropland and conversions between annual and perennial cropland are based on statistics of expansion/contraction of forestland, grassland and annual/perennial cropland. The exact calculation method is described in the PAS 2050-1:2012 (horticulture), in section 5.2.3.3 “Assessment of average GHG emissions from land use change when the previous land use is not known”.
  • Normal average: conversion of forestland to cropland and grassland to cropland and conversions between annual and perennial cropland are all set to 1/3rd of the converted area. This means that a normal average of the emissions related to each of the three types of conversions is taken. This is also described in the PAS 2050.
  • Worst case is the highest of the two above. It is prescribed by the PAS 2050 to take the highest of these two calculation methods.

Deforestation free certificates

Is there an option in LUC Impact tool to account for sourcing from for example certified soy products?

In the LUC methodology, we account for LUC over a period of 20 years. If the certificate guarantees that no land has been converted for 20 years, then you could set the LUC emissions to zero. The tool does not consider any indirect market effects. In case the certificate stretches a shorter period of time, one could actually still use the result from the LUC tool for the greenhouse gas calculation, to get insights from it.

Documentation

Is there a guide or a report where the data and model choice are detailed?

Yes, we document our methodology and modelling choice when developing this tool. You can find the methodology report on the LUC Impact webpage.

Forestry

Is it possible to assess the LUC impact for clear-cutting of primary or secondary forest but with no planning of substituting the land in new annual or perennial crops with the LUC Impact Tool? 

And what would be the main changes between the following two scenarios: 
  1. Clear-cutting of forests with no land utilization after the clearance  
  2. Clear-cutting of forest with land utilization for instance with new tree silviculture and no "crops" based activities. 


This is not a main use case for the LUC Impact tool. The LUC emission calculation is based on a carbon stock difference between a previous and current situation, so some 'new' situation should be defined to determine how much carbon is lost. Assuming that all carbon in vegetation and soil would be lost would be an overestimate, as some carbon will remain in the soil. However, the quantity remaining in soil depends on the land use. In addition, some carbon may be stored in the vegetation in the 'new' situation (e.g. in the case of perennial systems). The difference in the two situations in the question would be in the average carbon stock in the two 'new' land uses in both soil and vegetation: in case of no land utilization, natural vegetation might slowly regrow. In the second case, planting and managing forest or woodlands may result in a higher or lower carbon stock compared to the natural vegetation. As the tool is focussed on land use for agriculture, we do not have specific models to calculate carbon stocks in managed forestry systems or abandoned land.

Do you also calculate the negative emissions of carbon sequestration if you convert degraded land to forest?

Negative emissions can be calculated for certain cases: e.g. when annual cropland or grassland is converted to a higher carbon-stock perennial system. However: forestry is not a system for which sLUC values are calculated, as the tool focusses on agriculture. The tool can nevertheless help to find the carbon stocks associated with certain land uses (found by clicking on the results to view the details).

What are the causes for the LUC? Is there any similar visualization like the tree cover loss to see what is causing the loss of the trees?

The main cause for LUC is agriculture. Different sources indicate between 75 and 90% of deforestation and land use change is for the use in agriculture. Other causes are for example urban expansion, infrastructure, mining. We can recommend looking into the different maps available in the globalforestwatch.org platform for spatial visualizations.

Global Warming Potential (GWP) factor

What is the GWP factor used for N2O in the LUC Impact tool?

There are two options in the LUC Impact tool: according to IPCC Assessment Report 5 - GWP100 including CCF, N2O = 298 kg CO2eq; according to IPCC Assessment Report 6, N2O = 273 kg CO2 eq.

Peat oxidation

Is peatland conversion also included in the LUC calculations?

Emissions from oxidation and mineralization of peatland due to anthropogenic use are not included in the emissions of the LUC tool or dataset, not in version 2022 and not in previous versions. The soil carbon loss (and associated nitrogen mineralization) is included for mineral soils only.

Sequestration 

Why results are set to zero when there is a sequestration?

When this tool was build in the past, we decided to have a conservative approach and set results to 0 when sequestration occurs. There is an option to choose negative values in the web-based LUC Impact tool.

Does it make sense to claim negative emissions for materials/products, if that claim will not be valid after some time has passed and carbon sequestration potential is not the same as the first time?

This questions seems less related to LUC, and more to carbon storage in products or materials. Product carbon storage is a topic handeled separately from LUC and not part of the LUC Impact tool. Some guidances (e.g. the GHG protocol Land Sector and Removals guidance) provide specific methodologies on how to account for this in LCA or GHG assessment.

Tool versus Dataset versus other LUC tools

What is the difference between the LUC Impact tool and the LUC impact dataset?

The LUC Impact tool allows for calculation of the land use change impact in three methods as described in the first question above. More specifically:

  1. Country known & previous land use unknown: this approach is described in the PAS 2050-1 published by BSI and is made operational in the tool using various FAO and IPCC data sources. The calculation is based on statistics on country level for the expansion and contraction of forestland, grassland, annual cropland and perennial cropland (FAO). The specific land use change for a crop is based on national statistics on the relative expansion of that crop (FAOSTAT). You need to provide the country of crop cultivation and the crop.
  2. Country & previous land use unknown: a weighted average is determined based on FAO statistics, using the same methodology as in ‘country know & land use unknown’ for calculating the GHG emissions for each relevant country. For this one you only provide the crop.
  3. Country & previous land use known: In case the country and both the current and the previous land use is known, the carbon stock change is calculated using IPCC defaults. For this functionality you need to provide: country, crop, climate type, soil type, tillage intensity, current cultivation input level and the previous vegetation type (or manually enter the carbon vegetation stock). All these parameters are based on the IPCC 2019 refinements or IPCC terminology.

The LUC Impact dataset simply contains the final results for all crop-country combinations with the combination “country known, previous land-use unknown” (scenario 1 above).

How much flexibility offers the LUC Impact tool, e.g. adjustment of parameters?

Depending on the applicability within the different functinalities, the user will be able to select all or most of the following paramters: crop (multi-select), country (multi-select), assessment year (multi-select), ammortization method, ammortization time, tillage level (full, reduced, no-till), organic matter input (low, medium, high without manure, high with manure), average years (to smooth out yearly fluctuations in background data), source of carbon stock data (PAS 2050 or IPCC), GWP factor for N2O emissions (IPCC 2013 or IPCC 2021), allow or not allow to display negative values.

Is the LUC Impact tool similar to the one developed to Brazil: BR-LUC (Novaes et al, 2018)?

There are several differences between the LUC impact tool and the BR-LUC tool. The LUC Impact tool covers all countries, and BR-LUC focuses on Brazil. BR-LUC applies a 'shared responsibility' approach (LUC is attributed to all land occupation), where the LUC Impact tool now applies a 'product expansion' approach (LUC is attributed to expanding land). BR-LUC is based on geospatial data on a more specific spatial scale compared to sLUC values calculated in the LUC Impact tool, for which country-level statistics are used. This list of differences in not exhaustive, but notes the most important differences in our understanding.

Other questions

Are there any animal production systems LUC data included in the LUC Impact tool and dataset?

No. Since it's based on FAO data so there is no animal production system included. However, if the client would know the feed formulation and quantity of the animals, then they could calculate LUC emissions from feed for the animal production systems. This would be difficult for processed feeds, however. In that case it would be easier to purchase the Excel results of Agri-footprint database, there LUC is also separately noted.

Can you differentiate between LUC from grazing or feed in the LUC Impact tool and dataset?

LUC from grazing is unfortunately not represented in the LUC tool and dataset. We are working on overcoming the data gaps that now inhibit us from calculating LUC for grazing, and hope to be able to include this in a future version of the tool and dataset. At this point, only LUC from feed would be considered. In Agri-footprint we made a rough assumption for LUC related to grazing land, so the client would be able to obtain this via a license for Agri-footprint.

Can the LUC Impact Tool be directly integrated into SimaPro Desktop version?

Currently LUC impact tool is not directly integrated into SimPro. Blonk has another major database product called Agri-footprint which is a secondary database focusing on feed and food commodities. The impact results from LUC impact tool are fully integrated in Agri-footprint, and Agri-footprint is available as a library in SimaPro. 

LUC for grassland/grazing: does this mean that the land is converted into or from grassland/grazing?

Indeed: so far, only conversions from grassland to cropland have been considered in the calculations, but conversions from any land use to grassland used for grazing or harvest will be included in the next update.

Do you plan to take into account land management changes under cropland remaning cropland ?

This is not the intention of the tool in the foreseen update. We are, however, researching how to best account for carbon stock changes due to land management and this may become part of the tool in the future.

What about regenerative agriculture, where crops and animals are on the same farm?

This would fall under the third solution provided in the LUC webinar: 'reduce carbon losses from LUC', as regenerative agriculture would/should result in higher than regular carbon stocks (and higher biodiversity).

Updates

How often is the tool (or dataset) updated?

We aim for an update every one or two years.

Will there be more frequent / faster updates of the tool now that it's an online tool?

The web-based platform allows for much easier updates of background data and distribution of these updates to our clients. We expect to update results consistently every year, when new data (e.g. from FAO) becomes available.

Go back to the LUC Impact page

More questions? 

Get in touch

Jixin Liu
Sales and Customer Support Consultant | Blonk

Please reach out to Jixin if you have questions about the LUC impact tool or dataset.