Baseline Time Accounting Significantly Improves the Climate Impact Assessment of Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC)

Baseline Time Accounting Significantly Improves the Climate Impact Assessment
                      of Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC)

- Accounting for dynamics in the global agricultural area reduces the current
estimated contributions to global warming from ILUC by 60-70%

PR Newswire

CHICAGO and BAGSVAERD, Denmark, Nov. 1, 2012

CHICAGO and BAGSVAERD, Denmark, Nov. 1, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --Indirect land use
models that forecast the global warming impact of biofuels production
incorporate time accounting in a very simplistic way to allocate total carbon
emitted from affected land to the volume of fuel produced. The accuracy of
accounting for time in these models is severely limited by the currently
employed annualization approach: The annualization approach requires the
arbitrary projection of future biofuels production over which land use
emissions are allocated but fails to incorporate actual land use dynamics such
as expanding and contracting agriculture land area.

A more sophisticated approach to existing time accounting was clearly required
and has led to a new time accounting model by Dr. Jesper Hedal Kløverpris and
Dr. Steffen Mueller. Kløverpris and Mueller propose their "Baseline Time
Accounting Concept" as an integrated part of future ILUC studies.

Baseline time accounting addresses significant shortcomings in ILUC models and
when incorporated into those models results in a more accurate assessment of
global warming impact. This approach provides ILUC scientists with the ability
to isolate the climate impact of biofuels-related land use changes from other
land use changes as they play out in the wider dynamic development of the
global agricultural area.

Most ILUC models assume a static land use baseline even though it is clear
that land use trends differ regionally. Climate impact estimates are more
precise when indirect land use emissions from the conversion of land at the
agricultural frontier are compared with emissions resulting from the baseline
conversion of the same land. "As many others, I have always been
uncomfortable with the annualization method applied for time accounting in
most previous ILUC studies because it is basically arbitrary," stated Dr.
Jesper Hedal Kløverpris, co- author of the new baseline time accounting
approach. "A more sophisticated approach was required to assess the actual
climate impact of indirect land use change. Baseline time accounting is our
proposal for a more scientifically rigorous way of dealing with the time issue
in ILUC studies as the science is refined."

More specifically, the Kløverpris and Mueller approach incorporates two
agricultural land use dynamics missing from previous time accounting models
that define the totality of ILUC. The first is accelerated expansion which
occurs in regions such as Latin America where agriculture area is expanding.
Biofuel production may move up by a year or more the ongoing conversion of
land to agriculture. Globally, the agricultural area will continue to expand
for some decades, so a piece of land converted as an indirect result of
biofuels production today would have come into production at some point
anyway. That may not continue to be the case but one of the points with
baseline time accounting is to assess biofuels production under the conditions
prevailing when the biofuels are produced. If global land use dynamics change,
so does the climate impact of ILUC.

The second dynamic is delayed reversion which addresses ILUC in regions where
agricultural land use is declining or farm land is taken out of production.
Biofuels production would slow that pace at which the agricultural area is
reduced.

Accelerated expansion and delayed reversion together define ILUC in relation
to a dynamic baseline throughout the world of agriculture. Kløverpris and
Mueller lay out the framework for the estimation of an ILUC emissions factor
based on principles also used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
(IPCC).

The baseline time accounting method was applied to the ILUC studies by
Searchinger et al. (2008) and Hertel et al. (2010) and, under current baseline
conditions, the method reduced the ILUC emission factors predicted by these
studies by 60-70%.

"Baseline time accounting is sensitive to regional land use changes and
considers the alternative fate of land brought into production as an indirect
result of biofuels production," stated Dr. Jesper Hedal Kløverpris, study
author. "The 60-70% reduction in ILUC emission factors when applied to
previous studies under current baseline conditions indicates the need for this
approach and the need to build it into future research."

Kløverpris and Mueller conclude that if land indirectly affected by biofuel
production would have been affected anyway at a later time, omitting this
aspect may lead to erroneous conclusions about ILUC.

The peer reviewed study was published in the International Journal of Life
Cycle Assessment and it is available at:
http://www.springerlink.com/openurl.asp?genre=article&id=doi:10.1007/s11367-012-0488-6

Dr. Jesper Hedal Kløverpris is an LCA Specialist for Novozymes A/S in Denmark.
Dr. Steffen Mueller is the Principal Economist for the University of Illinois
at Chicago Energy Resources Center.

Contact: Jim Prendergast
         312-280-8706
         jim@thekineogroup.com

SOURCE Jesper Hedal Kloverpris; Steffen Mueller
 
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