How a Pareto frontier complements scenario projections in land use change impact assessment

Judith A. Verstegen*, Jan Gerrit Geurt Jonker, Derek Karssenberg, Floor van der Hilst, Oliver Schmitz, Steven M. de Jong, André P.C. Faaij

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


To evaluate the sustainability of potential agricultural land developments, scenario projections with land use change models are often combined with environmental impact assessments. Although this allows inter-scenario comparison of impacts, it does not permit interpretation of scenarios in the light of theoretically optimal impacts. A Pareto frontier provides this information. We demonstrate this for ethanol production in Goiás, Brazil, in 2030. For a Business-as-Usual scenario projection, the spatial configuration, production costs, and GHG emissions of the production chain are compared with those obtained from spatial optimization and summarized by the Pareto frontier. Projected production costs are 729 $/m3 ethanol, with GHG emissions of 40 kg CO2-eq/m3 ethanol. The Pareto frontier indicates an improvement potential of ∼50 $/m3 ethanol when keeping emissions fixed, or ∼250 kg CO2-eq/m3 ethanol when keeping costs fixed. Robust locations having low costs and emissions show where and how improvements are reached, offering instruments for policy (re)design.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-302
Number of pages16
JournalEnvironmental Modelling and Software
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Brazil
  • Ethanol
  • Genetic algorithm
  • GHG emissions
  • Optimization
  • Pareto frontier

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