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Combining life cycle assessment and economic modelling to assess environmental impacts of agricultural policies: the case of the French ruminant sector

  • Thibault Salou
  • Chantal Le Mouël
  • Fabrice Levert
  • Agneta Forslund
  • Hayo M. G. van der Werf
POLICIES AND SUPPORT IN RELATION TO LCA

Abstract

Purpose

Numerous policy instruments are applied to agricultural production in the European Union (EU27). Implementing them may significantly influence environmental impacts of agricultural production. A consequential life cycle assessment (CLCA) approach was used to investigate potential environmental impacts of two EU27 policy instruments: dairy quota removal and implementation of a grass premium in the EU27.

Methods

MATSIM-LUCA, a partial equilibrium model of global agricultural markets, was used to assess market effects of policy instrument changes and to identify the processes affected. Land use change and intensification of crop production were also considered. Outputs of the model were used to feed the CLCA.

Results and discussion

Quota removal led to a predicted increase in production of cow milk, dairy cull cows and beef cows in the EU27, while avoided beef cow production was located outside the EU27. Per functional unit, the additional milk production in France had lower environmental impacts than average French milk before quota removal, mostly due to avoided beef cow production in the USA. After implementation of the grass premium, cattle diets in the EU27 were predicted to contain less concentrates and more grass. Increased demand for grass led to grassland expansion at the expense of cropland, and finally to an increased area needed to produce similar quantities of ruminant products. Intensification of crop production in the EU27 occurred at the same time, however, thus reducing competition for land among different agricultural land uses but increasing environmental impacts of crop production when expressed per hectare. Environmental impacts of the additional hectares used to produce ruminant products were negative for most impact categories.

Conclusions

This study provides an initial attempt to assess environmental impacts of policy instrument changes in the ruminant sector through CLCA by combining economic modelling and LCA. Using an economic model allows the identification of the main effects of policy instrument changes in complex interconnected markets, such as agricultural ones. Nonetheless, inconsistencies between the economic and LCA frameworks were identified that need to be improved to make the method more operational.

Keywords

Agricultural policy Consequential life cycle assessment Dairy quota Grass premium Livestock production Partial equilibrium model 

Abbreviations

AC

Acidification

ALCA

Attributional life cycle assessment

CAP

Common Agricultural Policy

CED

Cumulative energy demand

CGEM

Computable general equilibrium model

CLCA

Consequential life cycle assessment

CLCI

Consequential life cycle inventory

E26

European Union excluding France

EcoSys

Ecosystems

EcoTox

Freshwater ecotoxicity

EU

Eutrophication

FPCM

Fat- and protein-corrected milk

FR

France

G

Grass-based milk production

GHG

Greenhouse gas

GWP

Global warming potential

Ha

Hectare

H

Highland milk production

IG

Intensive grass-based milk production

IM

Intensive maize silage-based milk production

kg

Kilogramme

LC

Land competition

LCA

Life cycle assessment

LCI

Life cycle inventory

LUC

Land use change

M

Maize silage-based milk production

Mha

Million hectares

MJ

Megajoule

Mt

Million tons

O

Organic milk production

PEM

Partial equilibrium model

ROW

Rest of world

t

Ton

VIM

Very intensive maize silage-based milk production

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors thank Enrico Benetto (LIST) for the careful reading and insightful comments, ADEME and INRA for their financial support and Peter Koch for his technical support.

Supplementary material

11367_2018_1463_MOESM1_ESM.docx (189 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 188 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ADEMEAngersFrance
  2. 2.UMR SASINRA, AGROCAMPUS OUESTRennesFrance
  3. 3.UMR SMART-LERECOINRA, AGROCAMPUS OUESTRennesFrance
  4. 4.SAE2INRARennesFrance

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