Track: A

Date: 31.08.2018

Time: 2:00 – 3:00pm

Room: Brandenburg Gate

Session 12: Innovative Approaches to Assess Sustainability from a Life Cycle Perspective (1)

Presenter: Marco Muhl, Technische Universität Berlin; Chair of Sustainable Engineering

Co-Authors: Markus Berger, Matthias Finkbeiner

Purpose: Weighting as an optional step in life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) has recently gained momentum through increased policy requirements. In this context, the existing Ecological Scarcity Method (ESM) is one method for Distance-to-Target (DtT) weighting, which is based on the ratio of desired policy targets to the current environmental situation. The purpose of this study is the application of the ESM to the European Union (EU) as well as its application in a case study.
Methods: Based on the ESM, a baseline set of eco-factors was determined, including weighting factors for a broad set of substances based on the current environmental situation and policy targets of the EU with its 28 member states. This includes data collection for a wide range of emissions and resource uses, as well as the identification of corresponding binding and non-binding policy targets. In addition to the baseline set, two other sets considering the short-term and binding character of targets were compiled for a sensitivity analysis. By applying all sets to the current European environmental situation, a comparative case study was conducted.
Results and discussion: A total of 699 eco-factors, including emissions and resource uses divided into 10 environmental categories, were developed for the baseline set. The application of this baseline set to the current environmental situation of the EU showed a high relative importance of climate change (27%) and main air pollutants (23%) in the aggregated results. The sensitivity analysis demonstrated that if only short-term or binding targets are considered, weighting results in comparison to the baseline set are 39% to 61% lower, respectively. The main reasons for this shift are less restrictive reduction targets (e.g. climate targets) from a short-term perspective or non-existing binding targets.
Conclusions: The ESM was transferred to the EU as a DtT weighting method for LCA applications. In comparison to the existing DtT method for the EU, the presented eco-factors take into account long-term targets, which could make it a meaningful method for decision-makers promoting forward-looking actions in the EU. Nonetheless, it was not possible to cover all substances due to the lack of quantitative policy targets and current emission data; which should be integrated in the development of future methodologies.

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Presenter: Timothy Smith, University of Minnesota

Co-Authors: Luyi Hunter

One of the most pressing challenges facing society, globally, is how to meet the growing demand for food, in the face of climate change, while sustaining ecosystem services. However, for a 21st century sustainable food system to emerge, new harmonized data and network-level spatiotemporal analytical approaches across the food value chain are needed. This research develops a novel spatial data mining approach to reduce computational challenges associated with characterizing and predicting sustainability benefits and burdens across highly heterogeneous landscapes and management practices of U.S. corn-soy system. We build a versatile and low-cost meta-model platform, incorporating ensemble learning methods, based on the DNDC (Denitrification-Decomposition) model. DNDC is a process-based crop system model that calculates annual crop yields, greenhouse gas emissions, soil nutrient flux, and hydrologic dynamics, based on daily simulations of bio-chemical processes in farm fields. This spatiotemporal approach toward improved predictive LCA methods allows for the assessment of current and future conditions of crop production systems at a high resolution across a large geographical area. Preliminary results of dynamic farm management simulations (e.g. changes to fertilization, irrigation and residue rates) on crop system productivity and environmental impacts are presented, with implications for policy and supply chain management decision-makers.

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Presenter: Tahara Kiyotaka, Research Laboratory for IDEA Research Institute of Science for Safety and Sustainability Department of Energy and Environment, AIST

Co-Authors: Kenichiro Tsukahara, Koichi Shobatake, Kensuke Kobayashi

IDEA (Inventory Database for Environmental Analysis) is an LCA database that represents Japan and developed based on statistics, operational data, literature, etc. The latest version of IDEA is version 2.2 and released in December 2017.
As projects such as the European environmental footprint progress and Type III labeling (EPD) schemes become much more common, multi-criteria evaluation is becoming much more mainstream. The next version of IDEA is implementing various updates to meet these trends.
In Japan, PRTR (Pollutant Release and Transfer Register) has been in force since 1999. PRTR is a mechanism that grasps and publicizes data regarding the emission of harmful chemical substances, where the sources were, and what amounts were discharged into the environment, whether it was contained in wastes or moved out of the business sites by other means. IDEA now utilizes PRTR data to add elementary exchanges of various chemical substances.
In addition, IDEA has also incorporated ionizing radiation elementary exchange flows from mining and nuclear power generation, making evaluations of ionizing radiation possible with the database.
In this presentation, we introduce how these updates were developed and how the addition of these exchanges affected the results.

Presenter: Niels Jungbluth, ESU-services Ltd.

Co-Authors: Christoph Meili

There are specific physical and chemical effects in the atmosphere which are related to emissions of airplanes in high altitudes, which lead to a higher contribution of aviation to the problem of climate change than just the emission of CO2 resulting from the combustion of kerosene. The exact relevance is subject to scientific debate, but there is a consensus that aircrafts have an impact that is higher than just their contribution due to direct CO2-emissions. The gap between this scientific knowledge on the one side and the missing of applicable GWP (global warming potential) factors on the other side is an important shortcoming for life cycle assessment or carbon footprint studies which aim to cover all relevant environmental impacts of the services or products investigated.
In this study the state of the art concerning the accounting for the specific effects of aircraft emissions has been identified. Therefore, the relevant literature was evaluated and practitioners were asked for approaches used by them.
Four major approaches are used by LCA practitioners, ranging from an RFI (radiative forcing index) factor of 1 (no factor at all) to 2.7 for the total aircraft CO2 emissions. If only emissions in the higher atmosphere are taken into account, RFI factors between 1 and 8.5 are applied in practice.
For the time being an RFI of 2 on total aircraft CO2 (or 5.2 for the CO2 emissions in the higher atmosphere) is considered to be the best-practice approach because it is based on recent scientific publications, this basic literature cannot be misinterpreted. Furthermore, it is also recommended by some political institutions. These factors can be multiplied by the direct CO2 emissions of the aircraft in order to estimate the total global warming potential.
The practical adaptation of a life cycle impact assessment method like IPCC 2013, 100a, can be done easily in LCA-software like SimaPro or openLCA.
By applying this adaptation, the greenhouse effect for transports by aircraft increases as shown in the following examples:
1. White asparagus produced in Peru and consumed in Berlin: from 14 kg CO2-eq to 26 kg CO2-eq per kg
2. Journey from Peru to Berlin and back by plane, in economy class: from 2.8 t CO2-eq. to 5.0 t CO2-eq
These examples show that the decision as to whether or not to take the above factor into account has far-reaching consequences for individuals, politics and the economy.

  • Azar & Johansson 2012 Azar C. and Johansson J. A. (2012) Valuing the non-CO2 climate impacts of aviation. In: Climatic Change, 2012(111), pp. 559–579, DOI 10.1007/s10584-011-0168-8.
  • IPCC 2013 IPCC (2013) Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.
  • Lee et al. 2009 Lee D. S., Fahey D. W., Forster P. M., Newton P. J., Wit R. C. N., Lim L. L., Owen B. and Sausen R. (2009) Aviation and global climate change in the 21st century. In: J Atmosenv, in press, pp. 1-18, retrieved from:
  • Peters et al. 2011 Peters G. P., Aamaas B., Lund M. T., Solli C. and Fuglestvedt J. S. (2011) Alternative “Global Warming” Metrics in Life Cycle Assessment: A Case Study with Existing Transportation Data. In: Environ. Sci. Technol., 2011(45), pp. 8633–8641,, retrieved from:

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