Environmental impact assessments in a telecoupled world

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (The Netherlands)

Environmental impact assessments are an important means to assess the potential sustainability consequences of products, investments, spatial planning or policy decisions. Current methods for environmental impact assessments have limitations in accounting for distant and indirect impacts. Either a focus is on the local impacts only, or distant impacts are accounted for but not in a location specific manner. The inability to properly evaluate distant versus local impacts has given rise to a general tendency to believe that distant impacts are always a problem allegedly ‘local products’ are more sustainable than products sourced from distant places. Yet, it may rather be the lack of good assessment methods that prevent us from understanding the various distant impacts. For this reason, innovative assessment methods are needed to understand the environmental and social cost across increasingly globalised commodity networks and provide guidance to consumers, investors, and policy makers taking decisions in light of sustainable development.

This PhD research will:

  • Evaluate how environmental impacts of products and services in globalized commodity networks affecting land use are accounted for in current environmental impact assessment methods and how tradeoffs between different sustainability indicators are made,
  • Develop novel approaches to evaluate the sustainability impacts of local versus distantly sourced products,
  • Test the newly developed assessment methods on specific products and services,
  • Apply the novel methods for evaluating the role of interventions such as certification and taxation, on the sustainability of telecoupled products.


Claudia Parra Paitan

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Institute for Environmental Studies
De Boelelaan 1087, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands

“My research aims to develop more comprehensive assessments of the telecoupled indirect, distant and multi-scale land use impacts of global agricultural commodity chains.”

Claudia Parra Paitan

Publications …

Parra Paitan, C. & P.H. Verburg (2019). Methods to Assess the Impacts and Indirect Land Use Change Caused by Telecoupled Agricultural Supply Chains: A ReviewSustainability 11:1162. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11041162