Policy: LCM in Public Policy
Life cycle management and multilateral environmental agreements
Life Cycle Management (LCM) has been promoted by UNEP since the launch of the Life Cycle Initiative in 2002 through various publications such as “Life Cycle Management – A Business Guide to Sustainability” and ‘Life Cycle Management - How business uses it to decrease footprint, create opportunities and make value chains more sustainable”. In this paper it is now explained how LCM can help companies to take care of their corporate responsibilities towards a number of Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) simultaneously. These agreements are important international legal instruments in public policy for environmental protection, concluded between a large number of States with the help of international organizations as parties in written form, and governed by international law. By addressing the environmental impacts in a life cycle perspective, LCM can lead to an effective action under the MEAs.
Emissions related to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (and the related Tokyo Protocol) are taken into account by managing the carbon footprint of a product and an organization. Ozone-depleting chemicals covered under the Vienna Convention (and the related Montreal Protocol) are managed by considering the Ozone Layer Depletion Potential. Chemicals included in the Stockholm and Rotterdam Conventions are part of various Life Cycle Toxicity Impact Models such as USEtox. These Conventions can assist companies in indentifying the chemicals of which a sound management is a globally agreed priority.
Another environmental challenge that companies are more and more asked to take adequately into account is in the hands of the Convention on Biological Diversity. According to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, key drivers for biodiversity change are: Habitat change, Climate Change, Invasive Species, Overexploitation and Pollution (Nitrogen, Phosphorus). LCM is addressing this challenge in various ways. Methodological development in LCA is still ongoing to establish meaningful indicators to address all these drivers.
Moreover, regional Conventions exist on topics such as water and air pollution. LCM allows addressing all these Multilateral Environmental Agreements in a holistic way at the product level. Companies can establish environmental impact reduction programs through the entire value chain they operate in that address several MEAs at the same time and avoid the shift of burdens from one environmental problem covered under one MEA to another problem covered under another MEA.
LCM for food supply in public policy – public procurement of food for schools
The purpose of the ERA-Net project "iPOPY" was to obtain knowledge on barriers for implementing sustainable food in the supply chain for public institution. The case of school meals was chosen for detailled studies. Especially the public procurement of organic food supply chains have been studied. The study was carried out in Denmark, Finland, Italy an Norway. The economic turnover in this sector are counted in billion euros.
The study identified a number of institutional, regulatory, economic, ideological and marked based barriers. The analysis of the collected data documents that many italian provinces and municipalities have succeded in implemeting a relatively high share of sustainable, local and fair trade produced food in the supply chain for school meals, with user payment. In Finland there is a national policy of free school meals for all school children, but Finland have no policy and almost no practices on using sustainable food in school meal provision. In Norway and Denmark the municipalities have sustainbility policies for public procurement, but as school lunch primarily are packed lunch brought from home, sustainable school meal are not well implemented.
The conclusion of the study is that procurement policies on sustainability is possible in the framework of public governance but not always in public-private networks. The methodologies and supply chain management instruments are not yet awailable for embedding sustainable food in public procurement and practices. The implementation of such supply chain policies has to be well tailored for being effective.
A novel weighting method in LCIA and its application in Chinese policy context
1Sichuan University, Republic of China; 2Tsinghua University, Republic of China
Many weighting methods were proposed to deliver a single score and explicit conclusions in LCA studies, which is always desirable for decision making. Especially, some weighting methods, such as in EDIP and Ecological Scarcity method, adopt global and national political environmental goals and the principle of “distance-to-target” during development of weighting factors. Such regionalized and customized weighting methods would make LCA a more practical and powerful tool for those policies.
In the overarching Chinese “Energy Conservation and Emission Reduction (ECER)” policy, quantitative national environmental goals were mandatory for the eleventh national five-year plan from 2005 to 2010, i.e.
Given the GDP growth of this five years, those political goals can be transformed into comparable political targets in terms of “reduction rate per GDP in 5 years”. Instead defining “distance” to these targets, these reduction rates can be regarded as a baseline, against which LCA results of alternative models can be benchmarked. This method, so-called ECER weighting method, was tested with a comparison of alternative desulfuration technologies, which led to explicit conclusions. The complete algorithm and examples will be described in full paper.
ECER method is unlike EDIP and Ecological Scarcity method in terms of definition of weighting factors and algorithm. In both EDIP and Ecological Scarcity, the weighting factor (i.e. the “distance-to-target”) of a flow (e.g. an elementary flow or an impact category) was determined by the ratio of the occurrence of the flow in reference year to the target occurrence in target year. This paper shows that different ways to incorporate political goals in weighting methods may exist. And strength and weakness will be discussed in full paper.
Life-cycle management in transport planning: Infrastructure development and operation of high-speed rail in Norway
We present lessons and results from recently completed life-cycle management projects for the Norwegian National Rail Administration (NNRA). Our presentation discusses issues in development of rail infrastructure in Norway, and presents use of life-cycle management at different levels: project level, transport level, and mobility level.
Our first case is based on work that has been contracted by the NNRA for investigation of high speed rail alternatives in Norway. The task was to make a life-cycle based framework for ranking of potential high speed corridors. This requires that we develop a component-based emissions inventory for high speed rail development, as well as for mobility alternatives (road, air). The results consider greenhouse gas emissions in particular, and allow separation of emissions that occur nationally as a result of railway infrastructure development and railway transport operation. In this paper we present the life-cycle framework for high speed rail planning, and how the implementation links to scenario development and long-term planning for long-distance mobility.
The second case we discuss is based on a specific railway infrastructure development project, i.e., a new corridor consisting mainly of a 20 km tunnel section to reduce travel time (named the Follo-section). The project is currently in early planning phase, allowing us to follow the project through from selection of technical solution (one tunnel with rails running in either directions, or two separate tunnel runs), via guidance for final design, directives for green procurement, environmental management during construction phase, and follow-up with regards to maintenance and waste. To achieve this we have established life-cycle inventories for technical components of the Follo-section, investigating several life-cycle impacts of railway development through the entire expected life of the section. Feedback from the NNRA is that besides being valuable to the specific project, lessons from the Follo-section form the Railway Administration’s proposal to the future common life-cycle greenhouse gas management approach, to be shared by all transport authorities.
We summarize lessons made from life-cycle management of single rail projects and national high-speed rail projects, and discuss overlaps and contrasts between the two applications. Finally, we outline a structure to link the process-specific details on project level with the consistency requirements for comparison of solutions for mobility.
Urban energy consumption patterns in Estonia - a mandate of master plans
University of Tartu, Estonia
In recent years, an increased pressure has risen to study energy conservations of residential areas due to general concerns of climate mitigation and resource management. Cities, their planning strategies, and decision-making have a crucial role in implementing sustainable energy policies. Therefore, studying and simulating the behavior of urban structures and functions is of vital importance.
This study focuses on urban sprawl from the perspective of urban land use planning and its contribution to residential and transportation energy use and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The survey was carried out in the urban fringe of Tartu, Estonia, where the current wave of suburbanization has been very expansive over the past 20 years. Residential energy use and related CO2 emissions were derived from the data on Estonian Building Register. Transportation energy use and CO2 emissions resulting from everyday migration between fringe and core were estimated by conducting spatial analyzes, considering the number of new suburban dwellings and data reported in recent studies. In total, 239 detail plans and 1801 dwellings were analyzed. The aim of this integrative approach to life cycle assessment and management is to link the framework of urban planning to economic, social and environmental aspects by developing an array of tools that can be used by municipalities for implementing revitalization projects and for further development suburban residential stock.
The results show, that although new building stock in urban fringe is gradually more efficient in terms of energy intensity (kWh/m2), the energy gains are consumed by the bigger dwelling and the longer individual transport, since public transport is not always available. To tackle these and other problems related to suburbanization effectively requires a policy response on a variable geographical scale, integrating local development initiatives and cooperation between different levels of administration. In long-term prospect, the evolution of residential energy use will be largely dependent on master plan’s quality and decision making support in which life-cycle management plays instrumental role.
Urban planning of sewer infrastructure: Impact of population density and land topography on environmental performances of wastewater treatment systems
Urban expansion is a multifaceted concept which includes the spreading outwards of a city and its suburbs to its outskirts in low-density and auto-dependent development. It has several direct or indirect environmental effects such as land occupation, car dependency, high per-capita use of energy and water, loss of time and productivity for commuting, etc.
This work intends to assess an additional environmental effect of urban expansion on sewer infrastructure for small and medium communities as a first step. Secondly, this effect is discussed in relation to land topography in terms of urban planning issues. The heavy contribution of sewer systems has been demonstrated in a previous Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) applied to the whole wastewater treatment system. The present paper proposes to give a finer level of detail of the sewer system to identify the largest contributors to the environmental footprint.
For this purpose, modular and comprehensive Life Cycle Inventories (LCI) are conducted to model several infrastructure scenarios. A first group of scenarios concerns sewer systems designed for a 1000 Population-Equivalent (PE) community while the second group of scenarios concerns systems designed for 5200 PE. These groups are then divided into urbanization types of sewer network as follows: (i) dense networks, (ii) scattered, flat networks and (iii) scattered, uneven terrain networks. Finally, impact assessment is carried out on these scenarios, factoring in either a short or long depreciable life for the studied infrastructure.
The LCA results confirm the huge contribution of the sewer on the entire footprint of the sanitation system for all situations. They highlight the environmental effect of urban expansion on the sewer itself on all impact categories except eutrophication which is mainly linked to the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). Comparison of a centralised “Activated Sludge” WWTP to a decentralised “vertical Reed Bed Filter” WWTP identifies more potent options for reduction of the total system environmental footprint for the sewer infrastructure than for the wastewater treatment. The article emphasises the need for urban policy guidelines and/or tools related to these questions and presents new research perspectives (i) to assess this environmental effect for larger cities (up to megalopolis) and, (ii) to evaluate different options for storm sewer networks. It finally advocates a scientific research perspective to compare centralized sewerage systems to clusters of wastewater treatment units especially on uneven land and/or existing spread suburbs.
Packaging legislation and unintended consequences: A case study on the necessity of life cycle management
Dart Container Corporation, United States of America
Beginning in the 1980s, U.S. policymakers concerned about the solid waste effects of packaging began enacting legislation to promote environmental stewardship. Such initiatives are laudable if based on comprehensive, accurate data generated through credible life cycle management (LCM) studies. Yet some initiatives have not relied on LCM; consequently, they have triggered negative unintended consequences.
This paper presents a case study of the unintended consequences associated with restrictive packaging legislation in one U.S. city. In 1988, Portland, Oregon, City Commissioner Bob Koch introduced an ordinance to ban the sale and use of polystyrene foam food service products in restaurants, grocery stores, and retail establishments. When Commissioner Koch learned that polystyrene foam was less damaging to the environment than alternative products, he withdrew his proposal; however, another commissioner, Earl Blumenauer, reintroduced the ordinance. The Portland City Council eventually required food vendors to discontinue the sale and use of polystyrene foam food service products. The city council did not consider credible LCM data.
Subsequent life cycle studies have demonstrated numerous fallacies driving product bans such as the Portland ordinance. A 2006 peer-reviewed life cycle inventory study produced by Franklin Associates, a respected U.S. LCM practitioner and solid waste management consulting firm, compared an average-weight polystyrene hot beverage cup with the alternative product most likely to be used in its stead, an average-weight polyethylene plastic-coated paperboard hot beverage cup. The study found that the polystyrene hot beverage cup required less energy to manufacture, produced fewer air emissions, and generated less solid waste, by weight and volume, than the plastic-coated paperboard hot beverage cup. Franklin analyzed many variables, including energy usage, air emissions, raw materials, transportation effects, product performance, and disposal options.
In a 2007 report, a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization, the Cascade Policy Institute, considered the economic effects of Portland’s polystyrene ban. According to the institute’s report, the ordinance led to higher costs for restaurants, onerous enforcement costs for the city, and reliance on inferior products. Moreover, the ban, intended partially to reduce litter, merely exchanged one type of litter for another.
The lesson is that proper use of LCM studies requires rigorous analysis in lieu of relying on conventional wisdom, which can lead to facile, short-sighted conclusions that trigger negative unintended consequences. Efficacious public policy requires data produced by LCM studies to promote environmental, economical and social sustainability.