LCA standards for environmental product assessments in the bioeconomy: A systematic review

Main Presenter:    Theresa Pscherer 

Co-Authors:   Prof. Dr. Sandra Krommes                                               

Climate change mitigation is one of the European Bioeconomy Strategy (BES) priorities. In this regard, renewable raw materials are a crucial resource, as they help to substitute fossil resources and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by storing biogenic carbon (C). To control the environmental impact of the European BES, the life cycle analysis (LCA) is the preferred instrument. However, standards provide different guidance for LCA. This review provides the state of the art of LCA-related standards, and in particular their methods for assessing biogenic C. The aim is to assess their potential for supporting the transition to a bioeconomy (BE).

Several relevant standards are analysed comparatively that shall guide the implementation of LCA in the bioeconomy. While standards like ISO 22526-3, ISO 22526-4, EN 16760, prEN 18027, and prEN 16485 have been developed to guide the assessment of bio-based products, more general standards, such as ISO 14067, EN 15804, the ILCD Handbook, the PAS 2050, the GHG Protocol, and the PEF, also provide guidance to assess biogenic C. With the focus on biogenic C, the differences in the requirements and levels of guiding information are presented. It is analysed whether biogenic C is accounted for, which accounting approach is proposed and whether the storage of biogenic C in products is taken into account. Moreover, substitution effects and the modelling of circularity are considered. It is illustrated that these inconsistencies lead to different and non-comparable LCA results, particularly in the assessment of biogenic C.

In order to adequately support the transition to a bioeconomy, it is discussed how the structures of the standards can be simplified and which more specific guidance and methodological approaches can be provided for the comprehensive assessment of biogenic C. This is all the more important if environmental policy instruments such as credits, certification schemes (e.g. building sector) and product assessments are based on LCA and assume a steering function in the bioeconomy.

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